Full report here: INS2-4699435949
Category Archives: Report
Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) have produced this guide to help maximise residents participation in the Council consultation on Capita. To this end, we have provided some suggestions as to how you might want to complete the survey.
The consultation will close on the 15th of February. Please make sure you fill it. If you know of anyone who would prefer to fill a paper questionnaire please let us know.
BAPS is very much aware that not all Barnet residents are online and have subsequently asked that hard-copy versions are provided for residents to be able to complete. Furthermore, we have asked the Council to provide an Easy Read version. All of the hard–copy versions should be made available at all public buildings, including libraries, Barnet House and North London Business Park.
For our trades council, 2018 has been dominated by one crucial issue: the crisis of outsourcing giant Capita amidst the collapse of similar companies, starting with Carillion. Carillion’s demise set the stage for a renewed offensive against Tory outsourcing in our borough, and thanks to strong solidarity from the shadow chancellor, we set about gaining support in our communities for kicking out Capita from Barnet.
Barnet TUC activists succeeded in passing motions calling for outsourcing to be reversed in two out of the three Constituency Labour Parties in Barnet and participated actively in Labour’s local election campaign. Unfortunately, Barnet, like a lot of the country, did not have an election with a strong local debate about austerity and simply did not see the turnout we needed. To our deep disappointment, the Tories won the local council yet again. Their victory, however, was soon to be marred by issues that resulted from their own failed policies. A particular irony is that they had significantly gained votes last minute by claiming that Labour would not protect bin collection, only for them to cut this themselves due to their own inadequate refuse policies – an issue we had been campaigning on in February!
We didn’t mourn after the election, we organised. We got John McDonnell to come to Barnet to relaunch the Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) as a non-partisan campaign to #kickoutcapita. The launch meeting in May was a huge success and we mobilised both at council meetings and Capita’s AGM. The tide of opinion was clearly turning against both the Conservatives and Capita by June’s Policy and Resource committee of the council.
We continued the pressure as the year went on, having an excellent (and star-studded) public enquiry at Parliament on the 6th of November. Events moved quicker even than we expected, as it was exposed that Capita’s hopeless culture of corporate unaccountability had enabled an employee to commit a massive fraud. Barnet Council was forced to conduct an enquiry, then did not want to make the findings public. We demanded and succeeded in getting them to reverse this decision. We saw the year out by doing pro-public services carolling at Hendon Town Hall, ready to keep going next year and until we force Barnet council to reverse the disaster of outsourcing.
Other protests and events we have been helping to organise:
- On the 11th January, we mobilised for a protest of local parking workers to get their service returned to the public sector at the council’s planning meeting
- In February, we organised solidarity collections for striking higher education workers.
- Also in February, we started a campaign to highlight the Tory council’s neglect of bin and rubbish collection services, months before this became a borough-wide scandal (as mentioned).
- Again in February, we petitioned alongside our postal workers to save North Finchley post office.
- In March, Jeremy Corbyn was able to highlight our struggle over Capita in a question in Parliament.
- In May we mobilised solidarity with hospitality workers striking to organise their sector, as well as for the TUC demonstration.
- We delivered large delegations for the NHS 70 demo in June as well as for the counter-demonstration to the far-right lead by “Tommy Robinson”.
- In August, we supported fundraising for precarious cleaning staff in the Ministry of Justice and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea
- In September we worked with BAPS to have an excellent public meeting with the London Renters Union and Grenfell activists on housing.
- Also in September, we stood in solidarity with the Cricklewood Islamic centre after a shocking racist attack.
- In October, we supported the McStikers once again up the road from McDonald’s headquarters in Finchley.
- On the 20th of November we mobilised for the for the March for Education.
- Throughout the year we had a presence at the monthly Grenfell Silent Walks.
Information about more our activities is available on our website.
Colindale’s Labour Councillors have expressed outrage after images on Facebook showed heaps of uncollected rubbish on the Grahame Park estate. Bin collections in Barnet have been severely disrupted since new rounds were established by Barnet Council on 4 November. The rubbish has finally been collected this week, but other estates and households across the borough are still not being collected on the correct days.
Cllr Gill Sargeant said:
“These pictures remind me of the winter of discontent! Barnet’s Conservative administration are so hopelessly incompetent that a garbage mountain has grown over the Christmas period – they are incapable of collecting rubbish properly. This is a costly error from an incompetent administration.”
Cllr Nagus Narenthira added:
“Residents are treated with contempt by the Conservatives who promised to maintain weekly bin collections. They should not have to put up with this.”
Cllr Zakia Zubairi also added:
“We cannot allow this to continue. We will end up with the rat infestations that the Conservatives promised us would not happen. They said before the election last year that they would keep the same weekly bin collections, but they’ve broken their promise and halved the collections for flats, and we now have a terrible mess.”
Photo credit: Zara Winstone
Question from the Barnet Society Chair: What about empty residences in Barnet – approx 4,000 of them are “long term empty”?
Questions from the public showed concern about homelessness, high rents and unaffordable homes.
The Conservative comment from their woman representative, was that “the law needs to change. We have to house homeless people – it is statutory,” she said in relation to a question asking how it is right that we spend £25 million on providing emergency accommodation.
An audience member said the Conservatives had introduced “Right to Buy”
Liberal Democrat comment was they are the only party wanting to stop “Right to Buy.”
Amy from Labour refuted. She spoke about The new London Plan recently published by Sadiq Kahn, giving alternative ways to provide affordable housing.
- Paul Edwards added that between 40% and 50% of social housing will be expected from developers because there will be the political will to negotiate this if Labour win.
- Developers reap profit from being allowed to supply the housing market, where in Barnet £400,000 is considered affordable and some units sell for a million, showing scope for the developer to afford to build social housing on site. Rental provides housing revenue to maintain rather than sell the social homes.
- In addition 800 Council homes would be built across Barnet for social rent. He said the Tories have caved into developers all over the borough
The Green Party:
- Ways to use building apprenticeships under supervision to build self builds with the involvement of those who will be living in them.
- Pre-fabs were discussed as viable and realistic.
- Council to take over empty properties and rent them out. The rental is then paid to the property owner. The Council presumably fix the rental so it is a social rental rather than market rental.
- The policy is “renovate not demolish”, with zero VAT on home renovation.
Robin Bishop, expressed concerns that the 32 London Boroughs have targets to build homes with density now abolished apart from in “conservation areas”. Robin and Nick from the Barnet Society showed concern that the new Labour London Plan would mean 3,300 new homes in High Barnet and Underhill by 2025.
Robin suggested to the meeting, that the next Council administration could draw up it’s own targets rather than following the new London Plan, in view of the 27,000 new homes across Barnet that the Conservative Council set as their own target and which is being met.
The Green belt and Ark secondary school were heated issues. Someone asked why a special school was not achieved. Councillor Longstaff said “We could not do anything because Barnet did not own the land saying the Dept for Education owned the land.”
Paul Lemon, labour candidate for High Barnet, talked about improvements to transport if both the London Assembly and Barnet Council were Labour.
- The cyclists, vehicles and pedestrians need to share our public roads
- Electric charging points paid for by the Mayor will make a start towards alleviating air pollution. Integrated transport hubs/tram/light rail, suggested.
- East to West transport links are poor.
- The same number in High Barnet commute to work in Hertfordshire and beyond, as commute to work in central.
- Cllr. Longstaff suggested Barnet Hospital build another layer of parking which could benefit those coming to Barnet. He said CPZ’s are always only after consultation.
- Barnet currently makes between £5.5 M and £6 Million per year from parking charges and fines.
- Trains from Finchley to High Barnet have been cut.
- Lorries should be kept out and pay to come into our towns was popular and received applause.
The High Street.
In general the audience felt there was a lack of vision from the panel.
That we need to create reasons for people to come to this destination.
Walks in the woods, Barnet museum, Theatre space, community events around food, music and culture was suggested.
Spaces to sit with cover from wind and rain was suggested by Lib. Dems.
The Lib. Dems. spoke strongly in support of library staff and building libraries back.
Cllr. Longstaff said we are lucky because some boroughs they have closed theirs where as Barnet, he claimed, have kept ours going, increased stocks of books and built two new libraries!
Residents challenged on this as did the Lib. Dems.
Recreation, was raised – before QE girls became an Academy, the community could use the swimming pool, trampoline and other facilities. Recreation can bring people here and serve us.
Residents were concerned about the number of eating places, betting shops and charity shops.
Shops that sell craft and hobby things such as “Hobby Craft” could be approached and invited in.
Street cleaning was discussed. There was a strong mood in favour of bringing services “back in-house”. Paul Edwards said “We are committed to bringing services back in-house.”
Capita Contract was brought up. Cllr. Longstaff, standing in High Barnet for the Conservatives, stated that Council Tax would need to rise by 4% if services were brought back in- house.
Some thought the “litter police” should be catching more people.
On the whole, the event will hopefully lead to more ideas to maintain our High Streets – maybe a toy library/toy exchange with space to play chess/ board games, as a way of using an empty shop (instead of creating another charity shop). Strong support for markets. The teenage market had been successful but not sure if that can continue now that the land that Barnet market was held on, has been sold.
Barnet Market with all it’s historic links is being minimised to a band stand and bit of pavement at the back of the Spires. The meeting noted the losses to Barnet since the Tory administration. Great to have Public Meetings with every chair taken and over a dozen, standing at the back
The conference to mark 40 years since the Lucas Plan, in which rank and file workers put together a revolutionary programme for repurposing weapons technology for progressive purposes to both save jobs and help society, has had a superb follow up. A an excerpt is here:
So What Happened to Our Conference Motion 16 The “Lucas Plan”, Arms Conversion and
Socially Useful Production? 1st TUCJCC renamed it Defence, Jobs and Diversification then sent it to TUC Congress 2nd It was accepted onto agenda and heard on Tuesday 12th September PM.
The motion is now the property of the General Council and has been referred to the TUC Economic and Social Department for Action. Their first action will be to consult with those Unions directly affected-we’ll keep you updated with any progression.
In the Meantime?
TUCJCC wanted you to know what had happened with your motion, particularly with the announcement of further job losses in BAE and the potential for further announcements of job losses from supply industries across the UK. They would specifically like you too
- Those Trades Union councils covering the area of the BAE job losses already announced to contact the Unions involved and ask how they (and we) could help (if not already involved).
- The TUCJCC regional representatives will raise within their own Regional Executives the wider issue of potential job loss within the wider supply chain industries.
- Discuss the motion within your own Trades Union Councils and consider how your
affiliate could encourage both the TUC and Labour Party to act on it.
The for a link to the full motion and repot: So What Happened to Our Conference Motion 16-final copy (002)
The day itself, of course, also happened to be the day of further protests against the most racist (to say nothing of also sexist and authoritarian) president of recent American history, Donald Trump. SUtR organisers quite right cancelled the morning session to allow us all to join around 40,000 other people on this lively and important demonstration, and it put people into the right frame of mind for the day.
The opening session contained greetings and introductions from a range of trade union speakers. Ronnie Draper, general secretary of the of the Bakers’ Union, spoke about how his union was combating the myth that immigration, rather than employers, are the cause of low wages. Suzanne Matthews of Unite the Union spoke her work organising black workers with the TUC. Janet Maiden from Unison Health spoke about NHS workers defending the ideal of multiculturalism. The conference then split into three workshops: one on Brexit and Workers’ Rights, one on building solidarity with refugees and a third on the threat of the Prevent policy.
I went to the refugee solidarity session. It was kicked off by Sara Tomlinson of Lambeth TUC, who had been involved in the Care for Calais organisation. Teachers from Lambeth had been volunteering at a pop-up school at the refugee camp operated by a courageous refugee activist who has since received the NUT’s “Service to Education” award. The school served around 100 adults and dozens of children. The school provided a vital centre of normality and stability for the refugees and was more than just a place of education (in a sense, this is true of any functioning school!). It was destroyed when the camp was forcibly dispersed in November, and conditions for the refugees are now far worse, as they now live completely rough as fugitives, and risk death to sneak onto literally any vehicle they can. Care for Calais has continued distributing basic aid to refugees, even though this is now far harder, and continues to appeal for support. Trade unions are encouraged to help out by sending useful items like sleeping bags to Stand Up to Racism and to get trade unionists to the site to help, as Lambeth teachers have. A very good report from Mile End hospital followed about them organising their own-workplace based solidarity collection. Activists are strongly advised to reproduce these actions at their own work.
There was also some good information about things that have been done to help refugees inside Britain. Unite Community in the city of Chesterfield has managed to organise English for Speakers of Other Languages classes for refugees, based on its existing programme to help Eastern European workers learn English. This actually helped build solidarity between the communities and has also resulted in refugees and migrant workers joining the unions at work, which they might otherwise never have had the opportunity to do.
The other sessions also got very positive report backs. For people who do not know about Prevent, a very handy pamphlet has been produced to explain it. Essentially an institutionalised programme of getting education workers to report “potentially extremist” behaviour by students, who are almost exclusively Muslims, has created a surreal atmosphere of paranoia and discrimination that would be funny if weren’t so horrible. Young Muslims have been called in for questioning for wearing badges that say “Free Palestine” or mispronouncing words so someone else can think they heard the word “bomb”. Children growing up in such climate can scarcely be said to be free and enjoying their rights: our movement must oppose Prevent, and champion an education that is actively anti-racist. The session on Brexit was also useful, and contained a report back from the new Free Movement of Labour Campaign, which has been invited to send a speaker to Barnet TUC’s AGM next month.
Generally, this was a timely and very well organised conference that turned what could be a very bleak few hours into a useful organising event. I would support having another one in future.
The Housing Summit was what I’d expected it to be. It was amazingly well attended over 250 people surpassing the expectations of I think the organisers and attendees alike. It was heartening to see so many people. It had good coverage of London and organisations outside London, from Bristol and people from Norwich. The Conference had great speakers and the morning was taken up by Speakers followed by questions and answers. The afternoon was broken up into work shops. I attended the young people and housing work shop. There were young Londoners under imminent threat of eviction, some of which may have taken place by now. Luckily for at least one attendee the people from Camden council were in attendance and personally offered to help with one young man’s eviction notice. The brief was to come away with at least 5 action points from every work shop -of which I do not have a complete list now available to me, but to continue to organise and oppose around the housing act was at least one other workshop.
Even though it was organised well, attendees from the floor wanted to be heard and share their stories. Time went quickly and we ended up having 10 minutes for lunch and rushing to our chosen workshops. There were excellent suggestions from the young people and the housing crises workshop. The one I can still recall was from a teacher who suggested that we go into schools and sixth form colleges to inform young people what is coming to them – Basically virtually no choices in housing whatsoever. Letting young people know and preparing them for what is going to be a very difficult task to make an adult lifestyle – having those lifestyle choices taken away from them, ensures that we recruit new activists while informing young people of their current reality in housing.
There was some heated discourse on whether guardian agencies could be recruited into helping more young people into housing. This was controversial as usually the guardians have been put into housing that families once occupied as in Dollis Valley and perhaps they had absolutely no place in real housing choices for anybody. Charging extortionate rents and giving people even less rights than normal tenants.
I have to say that even though I put my hand up all the time to ask questions and contribute, I was the only one representing Barnet and I was largely ignored and not allowed to speak. I think because all our stories are of people being evicted and not winning. It was clear to me that the organisers wanted only a positive contributions to the floor of the summit.
Unfortunately I could not stay beyond 4pm so missed the summary and conclusions of other workshops but I know it was a successful day. It was reassuring to know that there is a real opposition amongst some councils that the housing act is unrealistic and untenable and unworkable even if they were not short of money, most councils would find it impossible to implement. Also I learnt that pay to stay is not law yet and should not be treated as such. Some councils at the other end of the spectrum are implementing policies, like Barnet for example, that are not yet law and can be justifiably refused by people.
It was altogether a good day for axing the housing act and for networking with each other, getting to know new people in housing.
A big thank you goes out to everyone who came to our annual general meeting. Barnet TUC elected its committee for the new year and had a series of excellent speakers who sparked off an excellent debate about how we as movement can take the struggle for social justice forwards for another year.
Our first speaker was the academic and activist Linda Kaucher, who came talk about the threat posed to equality and democracy by the transatlantic treaties know as TTIP and, more urgently in her view, CETA. Although these are packaged for the public as “trade” agreements, Linda warns that they have very little if anything to do with trade, and everything to do with deregulation. Tariffs between EU and North American countries, she points out, are and have been very low for a long time, but standards of regulation to protect health, safety and the environment are much higher. Big business is lobbying hard for these treaties because it does not want such protections to get in the way of profits. An interesting debate ensued about the implications of this, and what it might mean in terms of the forthcoming EU referendum, but there was consensus that more needs to be done to oppose TTIP.
The next speaker was local councillor and new leader of the Barnet Council Labour group, Barry Rawlings. The Labour (and Lib Dem) counsellors have challenged the hard-rightwing Tory council this year by submitting complete alternative budgets, approved as valid by the council finance officers. Barry emphasised that the Tories have been pushing for massive cuts and privatisation by claiming that they have no choice in the matter because of reduced revenue (itself a Tory policy, of course, though they ignore this!), whereas the budget he’d moved showed that there was in fact a range of political choices that can be made in allocating resources. Among other things, they had had a proposal to replace all 800 social homes that are currently being lost through council regeneration projects, as well as significant defence of care services through use of a ring-fenced council take increase that would cost Barnet residents no more than 10p a week. The Labour group has invited the wider movement to have some constructive input into what choices a progressive council, that we could achieve, would do. There was very enthusiastic discussion about this, as no issue is more urgent in Barnet right now than putting a stop to the extreme austerity agenda. We all agreed though, that further resistance is also needed between now and the potential election of a new council, if there is to be any public services left to utilise, and libraries continue to be one of the key front-lines.
The evening was rounded off by Ian Hodson, national president of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union. He’d come to our meeting directly from spending the afternoon on a picket line of striking Junior Doctors, who he hailed as fighting a battle for us all and warned us not to let them be another National Union of Mineworkers. He proceeded to give a wide-ranging speech about the goals of his union and its struggle for equal rights and fair pay for young workers, who are massively exploited at the moment. He also emphasised the importance of the struggle against rise of racism, represented by the outrageous rhetoric that David Cameron has used against refugees. BTUC will be organising a Barnet meet-up for the March 19th demonstration against racism in London in that spirit.
Housing Commission Report
25th of January Clayton Crown Hotel, Cricklewood Broadway please RSVP here.
Lack of affordable housing in Barnet is now one of the top 2 concerns for local people according to the council’s latest Residents’ Perception Survey.
People are finding it hard to get onto the housing ladder with average house prices in the borough at nearly half a million pounds. Private sector rents are the highest in outer-London with many rented properties poorly managed and maintained.
Homelessness is increasing, and with recent news that Barnet Council is set to increase council rents for new build to 65% of average open market rents from 30%, more and more people will find themselves trapped in a cycle of debt, eviction and homelessness.
Barnet’s Labour councillors have set-up a Housing Commission to look into how Barnet can increase the supply of affordable homes, and help improve standards in the private rented sector.
Our Commission is Chaired by Nicky Gavron AM, and is made up of independent housing experts, local community representatives and Labour councillors. You can find out more about our Commissioners here.
The Commission will meet at least six times over the next 8 months, and will be taking evidence from housing professionals, other London boroughs and the local community. The meetings will all be open to the public to attend.
Our launch event and first evidence session took place on Thursday 20 November at the Crown Moran Hotel on Cricklewood Broadway, with Guest Speaker Cllr Sarah Hayward, Leader of Camden Council – thanks to all who participated! You can see footage here from the meeting courtesy of the Barnet Bugle.
We held our second evidence session on Monday 1 December at the Rainbow Centre on Dollis Valley Drive, and heard evidence from private tenants’ rights campaigner, Jacky Peacock OBE, Roz Spencer, Rogue Landlord Taskforce Co-ordinator, LB Lewisham, Duncan Bowie, Senior Lecturer in Spatial Planning at the University of Westminster, Professor Marjorie Mayo & Ines Newman, authors of ‘Tackling the housing crisis‘ and Maria Brenton, co-founder of Older Women’s CoHousing (Owch). You can see footage from that meeting here – courtesy of the Barnet Bugle once more.
Our third evidence session took place on Monday 8 December at the Friern Barnet Community Library. We heard from Sarah Sackman – Public Law Barrister and Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Finchley & Golders Green, Alison Inman – Board Member of the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Tenant Participation Advisory Service, and steering group member of SHOUT (Social Housing Under Threat), Kate Murray – former Editor of Inside Housing and steering group member of SHOUT, Cllr Phil Glanville – Cabinet Member for Housing, LB Hackney and Cllr James Murray – Cabinet Member for Housing, LB Islington. Footage of this session can be viewed here – courtesy of the Barnet Bugle as ever.
Our fourth evidence session took place on Thursday 8 January at the Park Road Youth & Community Centre, West Hendon. We heard evidence from Christine Hynes – CEO of Climate Energy Homes, Andrew Dismore – Assembly Member for Barnet & Camden and Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Hendon, Dan Knowles – Director of Sawyer Fielding, Cllr Stephen Cowan – Leader of LB Hammersmith & Fulham,Jasmin Parsons – Our West Hendon and Janette Evans – Barnet Housing Action Group. Footage of this session can be found here courtesy of the Barnet Bugle.
Our fifth evidence session took place on Monday 23 February at the Grahame Park Community Centre in Colindale. We heard evidence from Cllr Barry Rawlings – the Barnet Labour Group’s Deputy Leader and Health Spokesperson, Cllr Mick O’Sullivan – Chair of the London Federation of Housing Co-ops, and Chair of Islington’s Housing Scrutiny Committee, Cllr David Rodgers – former CEO of CDS Co-operatives, the largest co-operative housing service agency in the UK, former President of the International Co-operative Alliance (Housing) and the Deputy Cabinet for Housing at LB Ealing, John Dix – aka Mr Reasonable,Theresa Musgrove – aka Mrs Angry of the Broken Barnet blog, Patrick Hunter – Unison convenor, Barnet Homes, Cllr Nagus Narenthira – NASUWT and Labour councillor in Colindale. Footage of this session can be found here courtesy of the Barnet Bugle.
Our sixth evidence session took place on Wednesday 8 July at the Park Road Youth & Community Centre, West Hendon. We heard evidence from Nicholas Boys Smith – Founder of Create Streets, Maggie Rafalowicz – Campbell Tickell, Tom Copley AM, and Keith Nason – Secretary of Barnet NUT.
Our final public evidence session took place on Thursday 10 September at 7.30pm – once again at the Park Road Youth & Community Centre, West Hendon. We heard evidence from Daren Nathan, Development Director at Durkan and Cllr Alan Strickland, Cabinet Member for Housing & Regeneration, LB Haringey.
Over September and October we have continued to take evidence from other London boroughs, and other organisations including housing associations in Wales, and so our report has been delayed and will be launched on Monday 25 January. To attend the launch event please RSVP here.
We look forward to seeing you at our report launch event!
Cllr Alison Moore, Joint Vice Chair, Housing Commission and London Assembly list candidate
Cllr Ross Houston, Joint Vic Chair, Housing Commission and Labour’s Housing Spokesperson