Fair Funding for Haringey Schools

I went with a Haringey deputation to meet with Lord Hill – the Schools Minister last week. In the deputation were: Cllr Lorna Reith (Haringey Executive Member for Children’s Services), David Lammy, Tottenham MP, Peter Lewis, Director of Children’s Services at Haringey and Tony Brockman from Haringey NUT.

This was a timely plea to the Government to push our case for the outcome of the two options in the recently completed consultation on funding formulas for our schools to be the ‘Hybrid’ option. To all those locally who know how long and how hard I and the Liberal Democrats have campaigned against Labour’s long standing unfair funding to Haringey – you know how important this is.

Apart from our usual LibDem petitions and email list – we were at the school gates getting people to respond to the consultation by the then Labour Government on funding. (A consultation they had been forced into by our campaign and others around the country where the unfairness in funding was now putting schools into deficit – and denying the children in those areas the teachers they needed). And clearly – the people in Haringey responded splendidly – with something like 1500 people letting the the new government know exactly how unfair the old Labour funding formula was and how much we need that money in Haringey with all the challenges we have.  It had clearly been noted – the depth and volume of feeling from parents and teachers and all in Haringey!

In Haringey our children get £1300 less per head than neighbouring boroughs like Camden, Islington and Hackney. When I met the previous government Minister on this very outrageous inequality – even he admitted that Haringey with its £1300 diferential was the worst ‘cliffedge’ (difference between close neighbours) in the county.

Obviously – the new coalition government’s ‘pupil premium’ in the coalition agreement – where £2.5 billion will come on stream starting in the second year of government – and where the money follows the pupil with special needs or on free school meals (and which will benefit every single school in Haringey) will be a blessing. However, that will bring us in a lot of money – but equally it will bring money into those boroughs like Camden and Hackney too.

So first off I wanted to make sure that when that money comes on stream from the ‘pupil premium’ – Haringey is first in line for it! However, the meat of this meeting was about the results of the consultation on the funding formula – the funding formula that has for so long underfunded Haringey.

The ‘hybrid’ option will close some of the gap in our funding. We are £35million adrift every single year. The ‘hybrid’ option will move us half way towards closing the gap (estimate only).

We each made the case – very well I thought. And it was well-received. Lord Hill clearly got the message and the timing of this deputation was perfect as the decision is about to be made. He did seem receptive. So the case was well made – and now we have to keep everything crossed that we get our funding!

Fair Funding – consultation in next few weeks – hopefully

Tony Brockman, of Haringey NUT, had convened a meeting of education stakeholders last night – to prepare for the consultation that will finally arrive in the next few weeks on funding our children in our Haringey Schools.

I started the ‘fair funding’ campaign several years ago, when I discovered from Parliamentary figures obtained – that our children got around £750.00 per head less than each child in Islington, Camden or Hackney. Hence the campaign title – fair funding!

Since that discovery and the full on campaign – I am pleased to say that the Labour MP and Minister, David Lammy, the Labour Council Leader, teachers, governors, parents and all – are all campaigning together to get the funding formula which delivers this disparity – changed – so that our children have a fair education.

The gap is still widening – and currently our children are getting over £1100 less per head – that is equivalent to £35 million per year and could deliver over 1000 extra teachers. That would be 15 teachers more for each of our Haringey schools.

And whilst our teachers do an excellent job – and we are improving – we are not improving as fast as other comparable areas. Obviously – a thousand more teachers would enable us to zoom ahead!

So – having secured a debate in Parliament specifically on Haringey’s unfair funding, having met with Schools Minister, Vernon Coaker (and twice with predecessor Jim Knight), having raised it at Prime Minister’s Questions and several other times in the House as well as tabling countless written questions – we are now at the point of possibility.

The Government has been conducting a review into their funding formula with the help of Price Waterhouse Cooper – and they are about to go out to consultation on the options for a changed funding formula. It is complex – really complex- so complex that Haringey have had to employ KPMG to interpret the new options – and they were there last night to explain to the stakeholders what will be next.

In brief – it looks like the recommended option in the Review will deliver a 6.6% increase to Haringey schools (if the consultation supports the recommended option). That won’t deliver parity – but it will deliver another £10million per year to our schools – and is probably for the time being – the best we are going to get out of this Government.

So – assuming this is the case and the consultation goes ahead – we all have to make sure that everyone – from stakeholders, to parents, to everyone – responds to the consultation. And we need to respond early and with personal experiences – what it will mean to our children and our school.

I also suggested that all our Haringey children might like to respond to – to make sure the Government hears directly from those most affected. I’m sure our children telling the Government what they could do with an extra £1000 would clinch the case!

I am hopeful, that after what has been a huge campaign as MP for this area, we will see a narrowing of the funding gap. Set to widen even further this year to around £1200 – it is the biggest ‘cliff edge’ between neighbouring boroughs for funding disparity.

I will come back and publicise the consultation as soon as the Government puts it out for us to respond to. It is thought that will be in the next three weeks – but track record on this would indicate that it could slip. But time is of the essence.

University uptake stalls in Haringey

The Government’s Universities Minister and Haringey MP, David Lammy, has been forced to admit that university uptake in Haringey is growing at one of the slowest rates in London.

Official statistics requested in Parliament by the Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey & Wood Green, Lynne Featherstone, reveal that only 10 more 18-year-olds from Haringey started undergraduate courses in 2007 compared to 2005.

Across London the average increase in university uptake was 6.7% between 2005/06 and 2007/08 whereas in Haringey the number only increased by 1.7%

This year Haringey schools received £1,183 less per pupil than neighbouring boroughs. Local Liberal Democrats argue this under-attainment in education is further evidence of the negative impact of continual under funding.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“Across the capital more and more young people are going to university, but not from Haringey.

“Locally the ongoing funding crisis in our schools means teachers have scant resources to offer the extra time and support needed to help boost the chances of our pupils getting into uni.

“The Government cannot ignore the mounting evidence that Haringey desperately needs a fair funding deal for our children so they can reach their full potential.”

David Schmitz selected for Tottenham

Finally ended up at our Annual General Meeting for the local Lib Dem party. Loads of new faces – always welcome and old faces – equally so.

Martin Hay took us through the events at the High Court that saw the Labour Council damned over their failure to conduct the Alexandra Palace sale properly.

We had the Tottenham hustings for our prospective Parliamentary candidate – won by David Schmitz – who gave a brilliant speech (and lives in the same street as Tottenham MP David Lammy)!

Enthusing young people about politics

Meeting young people in HaringeyMet with three members of Haringey’s Youth Council and Youth Parliament. Bright as buttons and keen to engage with their MPs (me and David Lammy – being the Haringey MPs). We talk through some ideas such as tours of Parliament and perhaps setting up a ‘Question Time’ where the young people from all the schools can come and put questions to me and other invited politicians.

A real pleasure to meet them – and they were soooooooo on the button. Bullying, how to get young people enthused about politics and gun and knife crime were the key issues.

In the picture you can see left to right: Shayan Moftizadeh (16), Member of Yourth Parliament, Adam Jogee (15), co-chair of Haringey Youth Council, and Uniqer Redguard (15), Member of Youth Parliament.

Hornsey Town Hall

Following surgery on Friday (which, for new readers, means people coming to me to raise their problems or issues individually face-to-face – rather than me turning doctor and operating on people!), I go to Hornsey Town Hall.

Here David Lammy – who is not just my neighbouring MP from the other half of Haringey, but also Minister for Heritage – has come to be nagged about the future of Hornsey Town Hall. Labour Haringey Council leader George Meehan was there too, as were members of the Community Partnership Board – who are trying to steer the Town Hall through to becoming a truly new community facility and restoring it to former glory.

The plans are for this to happen in three phases, and the first is the bit that caused such controversy – which is selling off bits to be developed for housing to finance the next phase of the project. Then comes restoring the Town Hall and opening that up for various community activities and then the last phase delivers the hall and the chamber.

David Lammy was helpful in terms of recommending capital funding possibilities and people who might be able to help advise on how to move from where we are to where it needs to go to put in for the big capital bids needed. So – another move forward hopefully.

The future of the Chocolate Factory

I went straight on to from my meeting with Haringey Council’s Chief Exec to a meeting between the management, building owners and tenants of Chocolate Factory 1. There is a whole rumpus over the rent reviews on both Chocolate Factory 1 and 2 – but 2 decided not to come to the meeting arranged by Manoj (Collage Arts – the Management) as they are being represented by a surveyor who is fighting against the hike in rents and service charges. But the tenants of 1 were at the meeting and Manoj had invited me and David Lammy – as Minister of Culture and Arts it would have been useful if he had come, but he didn’t. The Chocolate Factory is our Cultural Quarter and the willingness of our artists to move into this industrial area and help revive it has so helped the area. So – gave them some advice on the short and long term issues, but most of all advised them to get detailed specialist advice over the possible future leases.

It was very difficult to know whether what was on offer was fair or not – but I am concerned that they are all individuals seemingly frightened that if they make a fuss or object, they will lose their space altogether. They wanted to know about funding streams and I will try and find out what they might bid for – but David Lammy is, as I say, the Minster for Culture and Arts and so I will try and get an appointment to see him – after all, charity begins at home!

Haringey Peace Week

Watched Gordon Brown being interviewed by Andrew Marr and trying to be nice and cuddly. Problem is, as William Hague put it, no one can possibly believe he has had nothing to do with the events of this last week. Most damning was his too long silence. But I guess when you have kept silent for a decade and let TB take all the knocks – you don’t really know how to step to the front. It was evident that he is so used to saying almost nothing when a controversial issue hits (remember his long silences over Iraq? tube privatisation? etc etc). So he reverted to tired phrases. But you can’t have tired phrases if you want to lead a Labour renewal.

Spent the later part of this afternoon at a church service to mark the start of Peace Week. Haringey is the cradle of Peace Week, courtesy of the charismatic Reverend, Nims Obunge. Now a London-wide movement, it is going from strength to strength. Much singing and praising – and I, David Lammy (MP for Tottenham), George Meehan (Leader Haringey Council) and others all addressed the congregation.

Part of the praying and the blessing was to bring strength and wisdom to the leaders of the community (including us the speakers). It is very nice to be prayed for. I am not religious – but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel the spiritual side of life in a way.

It was also very moving to hear prayers for community safety, for entrepreneurs to move into the area, for health and so on. It was very practical prayer. Peace and justice was the overall theme – and of course the point is you cannot have peace without justice.

Concrete factory

Bad news this week about the decision on the Cranford Way concrete factory – the Inspector has given it the go ahead. Everyone is devastated. Following a tremendous campaign by local people and politicians across the parties – the Inspector deemed to find that all our cares and worries were as nothing. According to his findings we must all be mad. Sadly – it will be ordinary local people who pay the price in their quality of life reduction if we are right and he is wrong.

Goliath has won. Well Goliath in this case has loads more dosh for fancy lawyers.

Oh yes – the Inspector has applied various conditions to London Concrete’s permission to go ahead. But I wonder how long their promise to only supply Haringey building sites with concrete will last – and how long before they apply for an extension to the number of lorries going in and out. Enforcement is not the weapon of choice – but now we will just have to see. The planning process is always weighted in favour of the presumption to permit – sadly. And unlike London Concrete who were able to appeal the initial refusal of their plans – residents cannot appeal this decision as there is no appeal against the Planning Inspector. Judicial Review is the only next step – and that would be impossible to stage and even if we could – I don’t think they would not find against the process.

So depression all round.

Leave London for Torquay at 3.45 on Thursday for Question Time. Researching – I feel sure that Ming’s speech on tax (attacking twin evils of climate change and the widening equality gap by upping eco-taxes and reducing capital gains tapers etc on shares) will be on the agenda. I am wrong in the event – not even a mention.

To my horror, earlier in the day I find out that George Galloway is on the panel. I had been told about David Lammy and Liam Fox – but not gorgeous George. I wouldn’t have gone on with him if I had known. He is a brilliant orator – but a dominating bully in terms of a panel. However, no choice by the time I find out. Worse – they sit me next to him. And thus it was – from the terror raid to the murder of the Butcher of Baghdad it was George on his soapbox.

Given Respect only has one seat in Parliament – don’t even think he should get the time of day. Particularly after his colleague decided to whip up the divides in Forrest Gate by advising Muslims to withdraw cooperation with the police.

Whatever else I might think about this seemingly bundled operation – the police had to go in. The intelligence seems wanting – and this isn’t the first time. But when both Muslims and everyone else need most to rely on each other and hold hands against the terrorists – George’s lot are stirring it – and successfully. The march on Friday will not be helpful. Even if peaceful – it is not necessary. The police will get it in the neck anyway if they have got it wrong on such a massive scale again. And the intelligence services need to go back to school – or over to Canada where they seem to get it right – and they could learn a few lessons.

It’s an evil agenda – and the shame is – that there is a great need to support the Muslim community in this terrible time for them – as the terrorists hide behind their skirts. But George’s way creates division and discord.

Anyway – the boys (and there were four of them and one of me) were all being very alpha male and so hopefully I provided some common sense.

Got back to London around 3am.

Notice in my inbox when I get in (yes – I did – even at that time of night) that some of the DNA stuff has appeared in the media – which is good as I am determined to follow this through until we get results. This was when I discovered from the answer to a Parliamentary Question (PQ) I had tabled that individuals’ samples on the DNA database have been shared with other foreign countries with no real safeguards in place.

Under new EU proposals, all member states will be able to access the British DNA database and the information on it. This is bad in itself and a bad omen for the upcoming ID register, now the Government has made it clear that our personal data can be shared with foreign countries.

There are no real safeguards in place to control this huge database – which leaves it open for misuse, especially as now we find out it’s not only being misused in our country but also internationally. What confidence can we have in the Government’s reassurance of the DNA database having proper safeguards when, until last year, they didn’t even collate requests properly?

Concrete Factory planning appeal

The public inquiry into the plans for a concrete factory (batching plant) in Hornsey opens today. I arrive at 10am on the dot. Packed with residents, interested parties and so on – you have to be there for the opening as that is when Her Majesty’s Inspector judges the amount of public feeling and allocates the times for representations to be made by members of the public (and politicians). This is now (after a slow start by Labour) a cross-party affair. We united to fight the original planning application and are now united in fighting the appeal. So David Lammy – who is the MP for Tottenham (Labour) – and I sit together and agree that we will give evidence together. The Inspector allows us to return to make our statements next Friday at 10am. It is in the middle of my surgery – but as it is just down the road at Wood Green library I decide that I can manage both and anyone who comes in the time I am away – my assistant can either note down the case – or if they are disappointed I am not there, they can wait until I return.

After the ‘arrangements’ are all made and the Inspector has delineated the procedure, the two Counsels for each side make their opening statement. It is clear from London Concrete’s side that we are David up against Goliath in terms of the resources they are throwing at trying to get their plans through. His main thrust is that this application is sustainable, the very best way to make concrete and that he has the Mayor of London’s backing – that is the inference. He also infers that it is just the usual nimby’s who are turning out to make a noise about nothing. Hmmmmmmmmmm – don’t like him! Cannot bear it when real concerns and genuine fears are termed as basically an annoyance because they stand in the way of big business!

At lunchtime I go to Cranwood – which is a home for the elderly in Muswell Hill. Children from Tetherdown School are coming in to sing carols to the fold. They have been renovating – and as I walk up the builders are desperately trying to sweep up the external environs. Inside it is newly painted, brand new carpet and just lovely. The residents are brought into the lounge and the children sit on the floor waiting to start. It was absolutely lovely – shining faces and all that. Sentimental fool that I am – always a tear! At the end a bit of socialising. One of the helpers bangs into me and spills the drink being carried. First accident to brand new carpet – like the first scratch on a new car – you know it’s going to happen, it’s only a matter of when.

One of the children, Stefan I think, comes up and asks if he can ask me some questions. Given the focus and intelligence of those questions – definitely a politician in the making.