Inaccessible W7 Bus Stop set to finally move after long-running Liberal Democrat Campaign

Lynne Featherstone MP, Cllrs Martin Newton and Gail Engert, and local resident Henry Denby-Wood, all excited about the future move to outside Boots on the BroadwayThe W7 bus stop on the steep Muswell Hill looks set to soon be moved to outside Boots on Muswell Hill Broadway, after a three year campaign by local Liberal Democrats.

The encouraging news was sent to Lynne Featherstone MP earlier this week following enquiries to the Council and TfL.

Following a campaign of letter writing, numerous site visits and petitioning led by Cllr Martin Newton and the Hornsey and Wood Green MP, TfL and the Council have now agreed to move the bus stop to outside Boots on Muswell Hill Broadway. The move will rely on a successful safety audit and will be on a trial basis.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“I’m really thrilled! Thanks to the support of hundreds of local residents, and years of campaigning, the Council and TfL have finally agreed to work together to make the bus stop accessible.

“This is great step forward for elderly and less mobile residents in the Muswell Hill area, who will hopefully soon be able to get safely on the W7 bus to Hornsey Central.”

Cllr Martin Newton adds:

“A bus stop down a steep hill, for the only bus to Hornsey Central, was always a poor solution. But due to strong backing by local residents, and a relentless Lib Dem campaign, we are now really close to getting the move local people need.

“It feels like common sense has finally prevailed. Fingers crossed for a quick move up to the Broadway. But rest assured, until that bus stop is permanently accessible for local people, we will not stop fighting!”

Local Liberal Democrats celebrate refurbished children’s library after successful campaign

Lynne and Gail reading with children at Muswell Hill LibraryLocal Liberal Democrats were on Friday celebrating the transformation of Muswell Hill Children’s Library after a successful four year battle to get it refurbished.

Lynne Featherstone MP and Councillors Gail Engert, Jim Jenks, and Martin Newton were chatting with excited children and parents at Friday’s special opening of the new space, which now has a medieval theme to go with a beautifully restored mural.

The children’s section, which until recently was in a sad state, with peeling wallpaper and cracked walls, finally got it’s much needed refurbishment after a successful campaign by local Liberal Democrats.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“This place is just magical! And what a transformation from the rather sorry state it was in before, with peeling wallpaper and cracked walls.

“They have really done a fantastic job, and the kids who are here today clearly love it – and surely that’s what it’s all about!”

Muswell Hill Councillor Gail Engert adds:

“It’s been a long, hard battle, but I’m so proud to say it’s been successfully fought.

“This space, where I am sure hundreds and hundreds of local children will discover magical worlds and the joy of reading, will be treasured for years to come. What a success!”

Liberal Democrats ask local residents to join in fight for fair funding

Campaigning for Haringey schoolsIn their ongoing fight for fair funding for Haringey’s schoolchildren, Lynne Featherstone and a team of local Liberal Democrats have launched an awareness campaign outside local schools to let local parents know what they can do to support the campaign.

The Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate was joined by Councillor Gail Engert and campaigner Jenny Bouchami outside St Mary’s school in Hornsey as they chatted with parents about how they can respond to a government consultation to help highlight the current funding situation that sees Haringey’s schools getting £1,318 less per pupils than children in Hackney.

The consultation, which is running until the 7th June 2010, looks at two funding options, one which could give Haringey’s schools an additional £10 million per year.

The Liberal Democrat team will in the next few weeks speak with parents at schools around the area to encourage as many local residents as possible to respond to the consultation.

To make the case for fairer school funding, residents need to go to

The Liberal Democrats have also pledged to put in an extra £15 million into Haringey’s schools, through their so-called pupil premium to ensure smaller class sizes. The additional funds could give Haringey’s schools an extra 490 teachers.

Lynne Featherstone comments:

“This is our big chance to make the case for why our kids need and deserve more money for their schooling. This is an opportunity to give them a better education for the best possible start in life.

“Regardless of the outcome of the election – it is vital that people respond to this consultation. Of course – if the Liberal Democrats won – that would solve our ‘fair funding’ at a stroke – with their pledge of £2.5billion per year to our schools.”

Cllr Gail Engert, Liberal Democrat Schools spokesperson adds:

“It’s been great to get such a positive response when speaking to Hornsey parents here today.

“Bit by bit we are getting residents to see that they can help make a real difference. So for all you residents out there who want to do something about this injustice, grab this chance to respond and help make a fairer future for Haringey’s children.”

Liberal Democrats demand assurances on new school

Liberal Democrats have demanded clear promises from the Labour Council that Heartlands High School will be open in September after it emerged that builders have requested to move to work 24-hours a day.

Liberal Democrats are concerned that, with five months to go before the school is due to open, a move by contractors to working all night means that the project may be severely behind schedule – putting the school places of 162 children in jeopardy.

Furthermore, residents living close to the site are likely to be concerned that they will have to put up with noise throughout the night.

Cllr Gail Engert, Liberal Democrat Children and Young People spokesperson, comments:

“With five months until the school is due to open this is clearly not a last minute push to get final fittings finished. Working all day and night seems to show that this project is under severe pressure. We need clear assurances from Haringey Council now whether it will be on time, why we need 24-hour building work and to reassure parents and children starting at the school in September that it will indeed be ready and safe.

“We also need to be sure that local people will not be disturbed by the 24-hour work.”

Lynne Featherstone adds:

“It is vital for local families for this new school to be open. Labour need to come clean why 24-hour working is needed when they have been so sure it will be open in September.”

Haringey Council wastes further taxpayers’ money after delivery error

Local Liberal Democrats have demanded that Haringey Council comes clean on extra costs, after it emerged that the most recent edition of ‘Haringey People’ may have been incorrectly delivered to thousands of homes. Reports suggest that many residents, living in Alexandra ward,received the St. Ann’s and Seven Sisters editions, rather than the normal Muswell Hill edition. Similar delivery errors were found throughout Haringey.

This new revelation puts into further doubt Haringey Council’s use of resources for communication.  Last year, the council used £3million of local taxpayers’ money on communication with local residents.

Liberal Democrats have asked the council how many copies of ‘Haringey People’ have been delivered to incorrect areas and how much the error has cost Haringey Council.

Cllr Gail Engert (Muswell Hill) Area Assembly Chair, comments:

“Local residents contacted me, to say that they had not received the correct editions – it is just another example of Haringey Labour failing to get even simple things right.”

Cllr Ed Butcher, Liberal Democrat Finance Spokesperson, adds:

“This is another nail in the coffin of ‘Haringey People’.  For years, local Liberal Democrats have said that this publication is not worth the paper it is written on and that Haringey Council should think of more innovative and up-to-date ways of contacting local residents.

“Now, after this latest mess, Haringey Council has to come clean on how much this will cost local taxpayers.”

Lynne Featherstone,  Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey & Wood Green, adds:

“Haringey residents will be appalled that their money continues to be wasted in this way.”

Concern at rising class size numbers in Haringey

Local Liberal Democrats have voiced their concern at new figures, revealing that Haringey, despite Labour promises, is one of only nine areas in the country where there are more pupils per class than 30 years ago.

The Times Educational Supplement figures show that average Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs) across England improved from 23.1 pupils per teacher in 1979 to 21.4 in 2009. However, Barking and Dagenham, Brent, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Haringey had the same or worse PTRs now compared to 1979.

Liberal Democrats have said that larger class sizes are another indication of Haringey’s unfair school funding system, that sees local children receiving over £1,000 less than children from neighbouring boroughs.

Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, has spearheaded a campaign for fair funding for Haringey children, which has received widespread support.

Gail Engert, Liberal Democrat Children and Young People spokesperson, comments:

“Every child deserves a fair start in life. Having fewer children in a class is vital, so that each child can have more attention from the teacher, but also so the teacher can pick up any problems, early on.

“I am very concerned that, whilst most other areas have improved their pupil to teacher ratio, Haringey has failed to do this.”

Lynne Featherstone MP adds:

“Cutting class sizes is a fundamental change that would make Haringey’s schools better, but because of Labour’s failure to address the school funding crisis, we now have some of the country’s biggest class sizes and see the knock-on effect that this has on our children’s education.

“Liberal Democrats, through our Pupil Premium, are committed to cutting primary class sizes to 20, to give every child the opportunity they deserve.”

Local Liberal Democrats keep up fight against banners

Businesses have been forced to remove advertising banners from the streets of Muswell Hill, after decisive action by local Liberal Democrats. Concerned that permission had not been granted to place banners on railings in Muswell Hill Broadway and Fortis Green Road, both in a conservation area, Cllr Gail Engert demanded that Haringey Council urges businesses to remove them.

This is the most recent success in the ongoing Liberal Democrat campaign against the unpopular banners in local town centres. In the last four years, local Liberal Democrats have successfully removed banners, including controversial banners advertising Kentucky Fried Chicken in Crouch End.

Cllr Gail Engert (Muswell Hill), comments:

“Many of these banners have been found to breach council planning rules, yet it is left to local residents to tell Haringey Council that this intrusive and often illegal advertising is not needed or wanted in our conservation areas.

“We must make our town centres as attractive to visitors as possible – banners on every lamp post and railing do not provide the welcoming atmosphere most residents want.”

Lynne Featherstone MP adds:

“Local Liberal Democrats will continue to fight against these unpopular and unwanted banners.”

Where did the gritters go?

Snowy wallHere’s my latest column for the Muswell Hill Flyer and the Highgate Handbook:

By the time you read this, I am assuming (hopefully rightly) that the snow has melted and gone and life has returned to normal. But all did not go that well during the two snowfalls – the ones before and after Christmas.

Haringey Council say that they have ‘agreed priorities’ with their contractors on what gritting should happen when it snows. However, those priorities don’t seem to have been met judging by the picture painted by local residents.

I’d been expecting that – as with previous years – Haringey Council would say they had done a good job and residents would say otherwise. So this time round I made sure lots of evidence was gathered in – by emailing out during the first snow fall asking for reports from the people on my email list. (Let me know if you want to sign up to similar emails in future by contacting me on

I received over 200 emails back with details of each person’s personal experience in their road and they painted a very bleak picture.

Many priority roads (those roads designated to be treated first) were untouched; even where the road surface was done, the pavements of many priority roads were untouched; the side roads were frequently impassable and the majority of the grit bins checked by local councillors Gail Engert and Martin Newton were empty.

It’s a good thing I asked – and people kindly provided so much evidence – because from Haringey Council’s initial response to me it sounded as if Haringey thought all was fine, the contractors had done their job and there was no need to worry. Certainly not – as I was able to point with lists of specific road names where their contractors had not done the work.

It seems to me that if the ‘agreed priorities’ are not actually delivered as agreed then that is a breach of contract. And it would be reassuring to know that Haringey is checking on this rather than me.

Also, although no one expects a local council to be able to grit all the side roads in its area, it should make sure grit supplies are available near residents to grit their own frontages and roads. After all, however clear the main roads are, if you can’t reach them – you’re stuck.

We look enviously at other countries such as the USA and Canada, where each household takes responsibility for clearing their own bit of curb and road. But how can we do that here if there is no supply of grit or salt (even in a pile) in your road? How can you get to the very sparse grit/salt bins that are provided if they are not near where you live and what is the point if they are empty if you do manage to get to them?

And what about the pavements? So many people have accidents during this period. I was in email correspondence with a consultant at the Whittington who said they had 100 snow injured people in just one day.

Surely it must be cost efficient, as well as somewhat more human and considerate, to enable people to help themselves when the weather dumps on us?

So let’s hope that the information provided to Haringey Council enables them to ensure that next time we get a much better service – one where they know what their contractors are really up to and one where residents are given help.

Boost Youth Centre hours, say Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrats have called for the opening hours at the Muswell Hill Youth Centre to be increased, to let young people in the area have the same access to youth facilities as in other parts of the borough.

Information on staffing and costs at youth clubs was revealed, in a written response from the Labour Cabinet Member for Children and Young People to Cllr Gail Engert, at the last Full Council meeting on 30th November 2009. It showed that Muswell Hill Youth Club only opens for three hours on weekdays, in contrast to 5.5 hours at the Bruce Grove and Wood Green centres and opens for a total of 720 hours per year, compared to 1320 hours at others.

Cllr Engert has written to Haringey Council to urge that Muswell Hill Youth Centre is opened for longer hours, in line with other centres in the borough.

Cllr Gail Engert, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Children and Young People, comments:

“Giving local young people their own dedicated facility provides a much needed focal point, where they can meet and experiment with arts, sports and creative projects.

“It seems entirely unfair that young people in Muswell Hill have fewer opportunities than those in Wood Green or Bruce Grove, to attend their youth club.

“I will be writing to Haringey Council, to urge them to change this unfair situation.”

Lynne Featherstone MP adds:

“Haringey Council should give an equal opportunity to all young people to go to youth clubs, especially during the winter months, when outside activities are limited.”

Clubs and local people working together

Muswell Hill. Photo credit: markhillary, FlickrHere’s my latest column for the Muswell Hill Flyer and the Highgate Handbook:

It must be horrible to have drunks vomit over your garden wall, throw estate agents signs into your front porch and to feel threatened if coming home in the dark alone. But that’s the experience of those who live near the clubs at the top of Muswell Hill – and many other places where the alcohol fuelled version of the night-time economy blossoms.

But what can actually be done about it? That really is the big question. It’s one posed by a group of residents who raised with me the constant noise and nuisance caused by drunken souls exiting from establishments near their homes.

There is a right for any of the responsible authorities (police, health and safety, environmental health, fire authority, safeguarding authority) to call for a review of an establishment’s license if there are serious problems of crime and disorder, public nuisance, public safety or protection of children from harm.

If the police are called on a regular basis to stop fights and violence, or serving underage drinkers and so on – then they can call in the license for review and it can be revoked. However, for the drip, drip, drip of local nuisance, vomit, noise, and general disturbance it is very, very difficult to demonstrate that matters are serious enough to justify a review. That’s all the more so when it often isn’t clear which club someone came out of and, in the absence of a police presence, it can be hard to prove the existence and severity of incidents.

The Muswell Hill and Fortis Green Residents’ Association had a public meeting recently at which the Safer Neighbourhood Teams, Haringey’s chief licensing officer, some of the local club owners – and residents – discussed these matters.

My Lib Dem colleague, Cllr Gail Engert speculated that the clubs should put a stamp on customers as they enter their club – so at least it could be established where they had come out of. It was also agreed at the meeting that residents should join the monthly ClubWatch group – which currently is just police and club operators. Working together must be one of the best ways forward.

But the over-arching problem is that since the ending of the requirement for licenses to be renewed each year, residents have lost their annual opportunity to voice their objections and recount their experiences.

I am hopeful that ClubWatch will be the practical and best way forward. But I will be dropping the appropriate Secretary of State a line to point out the very weak position that local people find themselves in and asking what the Government proposes to do to strengthen their hand.