Labour lets us down over plastic bags

I’ve blogged before about some of the great things local communities, such as residents and businesses in Crouch End, are doing to help tackle over-use of plastic bags – with all the litter and environmental problems that flow from them.

So it’s really disappointing that this week Labour councillors in Haringey blocked moves to support more of these schemes in our borough. It’s like walking back into the worst excesses of the 1970s when a Labour councillor objects to schemes to reduce usage of plastic bags because … “unions weren’t consulted”! It’s not as if we’re talking about cuts some jobs in the council or anything – just about supporting residents and businesses with a sensible scheme to aid our environment. And how out of touch of Labour councillors to say such schemes won’t work – when right here in Crouch End we have a successful scheme that is working.

But you know what annoys me most about this? It’s a classic case of there being a problem, people getting together locally to come up with imaginative solutions and then the state (Haringey Council in this case) failing to do its bit to help. It’s that sort of narrow-minded conservatism which, in the end, damages the case for everyone who believes there’s a need for councils and government to help provide decent services for everyone.

UPDATE: The Ham & High has covered the story, with more from my colleague Cllr Bob Hare (Highgate).

Best wishes Justin

My friend and colleague Justin Portess and his wife Siri are expecting their first child. They are also moving out of the area and this major change in circumstances has caused him to stand down from the Council. This means the residents of Highgate ward (myself included!) will be choosing a new councillor. I’ll miss Justin but I’m delighted to hear that he is starting a family.

In the meantime if you have any problems you still have two fantastic Lib Dem councillors in Neil and Bob and, of course, you can always get in touch with me. You can raise any issues with us via the Highgate ward site – and note that the ward itself, despite its name, also includes the Archway area.

Jacksons Lane Community Centre: action needed to secure its future

I’ve Lynne Featherstone MP with Cllr Bob Hare and Cllr Neil Williams at Jacksons Lane Community Centrejust demanded a meeting with Arts Council London to try to secure the future of Jacksons Lane Community Centre – one of our much-loved local resources that has provided so much to residents of Highgate, Archway and beyond.

Organisers at the centre were told in December that its £125,000 annual grant may be cut this year. And without that grant the centre, which has already endured nearly a year of closure, may have to close permanently. Not good!

The problem is that Arts Council London has questioned the commitment of Haringey Council to the centre – not surprising given the delays in funding repairs after roof damage in January 2006 and also Haringey Council’s failure to provide a long lease – which meant the centre missed out on applying for a £1 million grant.

But the annual grant is absolutely vital to the future of the centre and I will not see it disappear without a fight.

The prize winning pears

Lynne Featherstone MP and Cllr Bob Hare with his prize winning pearsStraight on to the Hornsey Horticultural Show at the Moravian Church. Well – what a show – and incredibly well attended. On this occasion I am just looking (no prizes for me to give out this time) so able to meander and admire.

What fantastic exhibits and what a lot of work goes into organising a show like this. Well done to the organisers and to my colleague Cllr Bob Hare (pictured, Liberal Democrat councillor for Highgate) who got a first prize for his golden pears!

Haringey Council tries to sideline residents over planning applications

Bad new on planning applications locally – Haringey Council are not letting residents come to site visits by the Planning Committee. This is ludicrous. What better way of understanding objections than to hear from people on site what their case is and why they are objecting? Now – of course residents mustn’t intimidate or bully, nor must the Planning Committee members be partisan in their comments – but for heavens sake let the people come!

As my colleague, Bob Hare (Highgate ward councillor) says, the gold standard for site visits is those conducted by Planning Inspectors at appeals. VERY tightly chaired with a strict protocol. The inspector makes sure everyone is clear on what is proposed, where buildings will come out to, how high etc. Both sides (developer and residents) have a chance to say something. Councillors can ask questions. There is no arguing between developer and residents.That’s the way to promote better planning decisions – not keeping the people most affected away.

Birthplace of TV at Alexandra Palace to be lost?

Another The future of the birthplace of regular TV at Alexandra Palace is under threatlocal issue that has blown up is the danger that the Ally Pally TV studios are in as the Ally Pally Board, headed by Haringey Labour councillor Charles Adje, has now confirmed that there is no long-term protection for the studios (the birth place of television) in the proposed sale of the Palace to the Firoka Group on a 125 year lease.

The television studios at Alexandra Palace were occupied in 1935 by the BBC, and in 1936 the first television broadcasts were made from the site. The lease that could be signed with the Firoka group only requires that the group provide a space for a museum somewhere within the building, not the maintenance of the original studios.

My Lib Dem councillor colleague, Bob Hare, who is Lib Dem Alexandra Palace spokesperson put it very well I thought – “This is the equivalent of losing Stonehenge and replacing it with a fibreglass replica. The television studios are of vast historical importance not just locally but nationally and internationally. It is a crying shame that in their rush to complete the deal with Firoka, there has been no thought given to their long-term survival. We must do everything we can to ensure that our children do not regret the hasty decisions that are being made about the future of Ally Pally.”

The Charity Commission will soon start a short, one-month public consultation on the proposals to sell the Palace – so here’s your chance to have a save and help save the TV studios by emailing the Charity Commission at

As always the emails that work best with this sort of lobbying are short, temperate but clear messages that include your full name and postal address. It would be handy if you could also copy your email to me at

(It would also help the campaign if you can mention this lobbying campaign, such as by linking to this blog posting, on any appropriate website or blog you have).

I am also tabling an Early Day Motion in Parliament – so if you don’t live in my constituency you can contact your MP asking them to sign this EDM when it comes up for signature.

UPDATE: You can read about the latest state of play here.

Haringey Council results

Well – it was very close! Massive Lib Dem gains, but not quite enough to take control of Haringey Council – Labour majority cut to just three (30-27 – no other parties have any councillors) with Lib Dems making 11 gains.

We also topped the vote across the borough – adding up the top votes in each ward – and actually now have councillors in a majority of the wards in Haringey. So – very close! Best every Lib Dem result, including our first councillors in Tottenham, many in Wood Green etc.

Lib Dem highlights:

Alexandra – 3 Lib Dem holds – Dave Beacham, Wayne Hoban and Susan Oatway re-elected

Bounds Green – 2 Lib Dem gains – Ali Demirci and John Oakes

Crouch End – 3 Lib Dem holds – Ron Aitken and David Winskill re-elected, joined by Lyn Weber

Fortis Green – 3 Lib Dem holds – Matt Davies and Martin Newton re-elected, joined by Sara Beynon

Harringay – 2 Lib Dem gains – Karen Alexander and Carolyn Baker

Highgate – 3 Lib Dem holds – Bob Hare and Neil Williams re-elected, joined by Justin Portess

Hornsey – 3 Lib Dem gains – Robert Gorrie, Errol Reid and Monica Whyte elected

Muswell Hill – 3 Lib Dem holds – Jonathan Bloch and Gail Engert re-elected, joined by Sheila Rainger (who has taken over my old council seat)

Noel Park – 2 Lib Dem gains – Catherine Harris and Fiyaz Mughal elected

Stroud Green – 1 Lib Dem hold and 2 Lib Dem gains – Laura Edge re-elected and Ed Butcher and Richard Wilson elected

Congratulations and commiseration to all candidates and helpers – both those who made it and those who didn’t, in all parties.

UPDATE: There are now further election result details on Haringey Council’s website.