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 meetingRead more
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 2024/25Read more
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.
Barnet's Conservative councillors were in chaos at last night's Environment Committee (5 June), after rejecting their own proposals to suspend green waste bin collections for 3 months in the winter at the very last minute and forcing through a suspension of 6 weeks - which is what was piloted this past winter.
They still forced through scrapping the separate food waste collection, which means Barnet Council will now no longer be in general confirmity with the Mayor's London Environment Strategy. However, there seemed to be confusion amongst Conservatives on the committee, as Cllr Peter Zinkin proposed that officers should try and find a way for people to continue to have food collected separately if it was "affordable".
Officers admitted at the meeting that the changes overall would reduce the recycling rate by 2%. Barnet Council is currently nowhere near meeting their recycling target of 50% by 2020 - the current recycling rate is 37%.
It also emerged at the meeting that food waste was originally being composted after collection by the Council, but this was changed to anaerobic digestion without telling anyone - making people waste their money on compostable liners for their food bins for no reason.Read more
Labour councillors have uncovered a long list of problems with Barnet Council's new waste Depot at Oakleigh Road South, including subsidence, poorly designed MOT inspection ramps, vehicle washbays and equipment lifts.
The Oakleigh Road Depot 'Register of defects and issues' dated 23 May 2018 lists 65 problems, 29 of which are still unresolved, and 12 of which have been outstanding since the Depot first opened in August 2017.
The Register details vehicle washbays that "are not suitably designed for the purpose of washing the refuse vehicles", an MOT inspection ramp that is "too small and narrow requires widening for movement of Jacking beam", a jacking beam that "needs to be upgraded to lift the buses", a weighbridge that "cannot be used as the software is not connected with the rest of the site", inspection bays of "inadequate size to undertake required inspections / servicing", and cracks in the tarmac and concrete floor leading to the fuelling station.Read more
Following news that Conservative Edgware Councillor, Linda Freedman, has been suspended from the Hendon Conservative Association and had the whip withdrawn pending an investigation into historic tweets about Muslims,
Leader of the Barnet Labour Group, Cllr Barry Rawlings said:
"These tweets are absolutely appalling, and we welcome the news that Cllr Freedman has been suspended and had the whip withdrawn pending an investigation.
"We look forward to hearing the outcome of this local Conservative Party investigation, although it is difficult to see how Cllr Freedman can properly represent Muslim residents in Edgware now.
"It is disappointing that she was selected by the Conservatives to stand as a local councillor given what she said in these tweets.
"We also support calls from the Muslim Council for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the national Conservative Party."
The plans, which will be discussed at the Environment committee meeting on 5 June, also include scrapping all the ‘recycling bring bank’ sites which residents without access to doorstep recycling are able to use and a reorganisation of bin collection routes which will see collection days change for most residents.
The Council’s own report admits that the cuts to garden and food waste collections are driven by the need to make financial savings and take no account of the negative impact on the environment.
When the food waste collection was introduced, the Council’s own publicity said: “Disposing of food waste in your refuse bin is costly and damaging to the environment as it produces harmful gases, which contribute to climate change. By separating your food waste and not putting it in your refuse bin, we can reduce refuse disposal costs and minimise Barnet’s impact on the environment.”
The plan to stop garden waste collections for 3 months during the winter will inconvenience residents and is likely to lead to huge backlogs when collections resume.
All of the proposed changes are going to make it more difficult to reach the target for 50% of all waste to be recycled.
An increase linked to local government staff pay awards for allowances across all bands was originally recommended in the London Council's Independent Remuneration Panel report earlier this year. The recommendations would have taken the basic allowance for Barnet councillors up to £11,045. This was discussed at the 6 March budget Council meeting but was kicked into the long grass by Conservative Council Leader Richard Cornelius for the new administration to decide after the local elections. The report to that meeting stated:
After the local elections, Cllr Cornelius told Labour Group Leader, Cllr Barry Rawlings, that the Tories would accept the increase to allowances if Labour councillors went along with it.
Policy & Resources Spokesperson: Cllr Barry Rawlings
Assets, Regeneration & Growth Spokesperson: Cllr Ross Houston
Children, Education & Safeguarding Spokesperson: Cllr Pauline Coakley Webb
Adults & Safeguarding Spokesperson: Cllr Jess Brayne
Environment Spokesperson: Cllr Alan Schneiderman
Housing Spokesperson: Cllr Paul Edwards
Community Leadership & Libraries Spokesperson: Cllr Sara Conway
Financial Performance & Contracts Spokesperson: Cllr Kathy Levine
Health Spokesperson: Cllr Anne Hutton