Muswell Hill car park plan success

A busy local car park in Muswell Hill looks set to receive long overdue safety improvements, after a sustained eight year campaign by local Liberal Democrats and residents.

Haringey Council has agreed that plans will be drawn up soon for the car park in Summerland Gardens, behind Marks and Spencer in Muswell Hill Broadway.

The car park is often used by parents and young children as a route to local schools and the Community Centre. The proposed scheme should include an entire pedestrian safety audit of the car park and two-way vehicle access.

In February this year fears for the safety of local families and children using the car park were heightened after Haringey Council agreed that the local Community Centre would provide additional services, meaning that more people would be using the route through the car park. Residents were concerned that, due to the lack of pedestrian access and pavements, the increased number of residents using the area was an accident waiting to happen.

The news that plans are due to be published at the end of November has been welcomed by local Liberal Democrats.

Cllr Gail Engert (Muswell Hill) comments:

“This is great news and testament to persistence by local residents. The increasing concern for the safety of young families using this car park, meant that Haringey Council needed to do something soon. I am glad that they have, after eight years campaigning, finally taken note and I hope plans are forthcoming and are fully funded sooner, rather than later.”

Lynne Featherstone MP adds:

“Finally, after a long fight, it seems that local residents will be safer when using this car park.”

Cllr Martin Newton, Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson, added:

“Fundamental to improving safety for pedestrians in the car park, was to provide a two-way vehicle access. This will help to alleviate daily road rage incidents and will mean that local residents will not have cars exiting the car park, into their streets.”

Haringey Council raids schools budget to close funding gap

Over two million pounds have been stripped away from money for Haringey’s schools after the Labour cabinet, last week, decided to spend it on street lights, highways and parks. Local Liberal Democrats have expressed their concern at the decision, saying that Haringey’s Schools Budget, which is already under severe pressure, should not have been raided to fund a financial gap created by Labour’s recession.

On Tuesday (8th September 2009) Haringey Council agreed to divert £2.238 million of money originally allocated by the Government to Haringey’s schools, as part of an attempt to cover up a £5 million black hole in their Capital Budget.

Haringey’s children already receive over £1,000 each less in funding from the Government than neighbouring boroughs.

Cllr Gail Engert, Liberal Democrat Children, Schools and Families Spokesperson, comments:

“Haringey have stripped the council’s coffers clean of cash and are now spending on streetlights, highways and parks money that was allocated to Children’s Services and needed by our children for items such as urgent repairs to our primary schools.

“Labour’s recession hens are coming home to roost and, in Haringey, Labour’s financial incompetence means that, like old Mother Hubbard, the cupboards are bare.”

Lynne Featherstone MP, adds:

“Haringey Council has tried to dress this issue up as Labour bringing forward spending, but it is little more than covering up a massive hole in Haringey Council’s budget created by the effect of Labour’s recession on council finances.

“Our Fair Funding Campaign highlighted the fact that that every child in Haringey already receives over £1,000 less funding than children in neighbouring boroughs. We do not want to now see Haringey Council taking money away from investment in our schools.”

Summer Uni at Muswell Hill Youth Centre

Well – what a treat! Went to visit the Summer Uni at Muswell Hill Youth Centre. This youth club was for so long neglected by Haringey Council and closed most nights – but now thanks to work of local councillor LibDem Gail Engert and others it is not only open six nights a week but thriving. As you can see from the picture I had a good go at the ‘decks’ but am not giving up my day job in a rush. The boxing, the gym, the hairdressing and the cooking – all terrific fun and a great way to add real skills for future employment.

In the other picture you can see Akim – who manages the whole thing, and Seema Chandwani Deputy Head of Youth Service at Haringey Council who enthusiastically supports the scheme from the Council – together with Adam Jogee (UK Youth Parliament), and LibDem Councillors John Oakes and Gail Engert – and me!

What to do about the Muswell Hill bus stop?

Yesterday first meeting of the day was with Transport for London (and Cllrs Martin Newton and Gail Engert) with regard to the bus stop (W7 and 144) sited about 100–150 metres down Muswell Hill from the roundabout.

The problem is that older people, mothers with buggies and those with mobility problems have real difficulty getting to this crucial bus stop because of the gradient of the hill. It is a very busy bus stop – and it becomes even more crucial with the imminent opening of Hornsey Central Health Centre, as it is only this bus that goes directly from Muswell Hill to the centre.

A little child coming down the hill towards the bus stop fell over whilst we were standing there – as if to illustrate the point. TfL understood the issue. They have now gone away to see which option might be possible: resiting the bus stop (unlikely), adding in a stop at the roundabout (most possible of the alternatives), extending the route to enable a bus stop along Broadway or Fortis Green (less likely). Anyway – as I said – TfL have now gone away to look at the options. Let’s hope that they take the proper action – because it really is a huge issue for older people who have to get to their doctor or to the centre for other health checks and cannot negotiate the hill safely.

At lunchtime I went to a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV/AIDS. One of my constituents was there – and we are going to meet up locally to see how we can take forward both the normalising of HIV / AIDS so that the stigma is further reduced and more people learn that there is really no difference between someone with HIV/AIDS and someone without the chronic disease – except the illness, which isn’t catching and no longer means dying. We have let this slip off the agenda a bit – but I think it needs another awareness campaign. And perhaps even more importantly – a campaign to get people to come forward for testing. There is still a reluctance – but if tested early – the treatments now are fantastic (although tough at times). There is no longer a death sentence to having the disease – but you have to get tested to get the medicine!

Then it was off to New Scotland Yard to meet with the Trafficking Unit. I wanted to meet with them because locally I have been concerned about the girls working in a massage parlour and the extent of the adverts in the back of some of our local newspapers which blatantly advertise things like ‘new girls arriving all the time’.

In fact, in terms of the newspaper ads (which I thought would be an easy thing for the squad to tackle) they say it’s a difficult line between trafficking and prostitution, and chasing down ads doesn’t really address the organised crime and the challenges of bringing and persuading trafficked girls and women to safety. The unit is really targeting enforcement and has had some success. Sadly – the Government seems keen to stop their funding – which is clearly insane given they are the only unit tackling this and it is highly, highly specialised.

We looked also at the issues around trafficked children – and Haringey is an area where there are some concerns around this issue. I remember there was always discussion as to whether Victoria Climbie had been trafficked. Having met her parents I find it hard to believe. But there definitely is a trade in trafficked children and I will be setting up some meetings (hopefully) with someone who can get into that community and help the police. Anyway – a very interesting briefing – and hopefully very useful.

Haringey Council debates Baby P's death

Haringey Labour can no longer distinguish between right and wrong. I watched some of Haringey Full Council’s meeting last night on their webcast and spoke to one of the councillors afterwards.

The first thing I saw was them misleading the Council by suggesting that the Lib Dem Group couldn’t ask questions as their Leader Robert Gorrie and Gail Engert (Schools and Children’s spokesperson for the opposition) had had sight of the full serious case review. They hadn’t – and stood up to say so – correct the record. Then the Council said that the MP had been given a copy. No I haven’t. That I had seen it. No I hadn’t. And no – I wasn’t there but one of the councillors stood up to correct that record. The MP had not received a copy nor had she seen it. I will see it later today under Privy Council terms. That was before they even got started.

What was most clear that Haringey Labour are still in the business of self-preservation before anything else. The Lib Dem Group did a fantastic job of holding Haringey’s feet to the fire – but whilst Labour didn’t use the tricks I thought they would use to block debate and to get out of their culpability they used a different one to block the vote of no confidence. They wouldn’t allow the vote – and so when I hear on the news today that Labour leaders etc survived a vote of no confidence. No they didn’t – they didn’t allow it to the vote.

Muswell Hill Library: Labour delay improvements yet again

Not good news about Muswell Hill Library – promised plans to refurbish Muswell Hill Library and provide vital disabled access that were due to take place this year have been postponed yet again by Haringey Council.

As my colleague Gail Engert (Muswell Hill ward) put it:

Muswell Hill Library is in a lamentable state with wallpaper hanging off the walls, toilets in an unacceptable condition and the top floor not accessible to disabled residents. Residents and local Liberal Democrat councillors have been campaigning for years to have this listed building returned to a fit state and accessible to all.

“Yet again the Labour Council have reneged on their promises and let residents down.”

Good news on school places

Hurrah – my Liberal Democrat council colleagues have at last managed to get Haringey Council to hold a consultation on whether to expand Rhodes Avenue Primary school.

In May 2007 Councillor Gail Engert (Muswell Hill ward) revealed a shocking primary school place ‘black hole’ – out of the 110 children across all of Haringey who did not receive any of their four school preferences for a reception place, 25 came from Alexandra ward alone. (It’s only one out of nineteen wards, but more than one of five of the children without one of the four choices came from there.)

The consultation on whether to expand is long overdue – but it’s good to see our long-term campaigning on this paying off.

It could only happen in Haringey, part 94

More problems with the plans to redevelop / expand Muswell Hill Library as it turns out that the latest plans to sell off land at the back of the site to pay for the work … wouldn’t leave enough land left over for the library to expand after all!

In other words – sell off land to pay for work that they can’t be done because, er… the land has been sold off. So very Labour Haringey!

As my colleague, Cllr Gail Engert (Muswell Hill) put it, “It is ludicrous to think that the very development that was meant to pay for the extension is now the very barrier stopping this happening. Original plans showed the library and the development sharing the land equally – now the development takes nearly all the land, leaving the library with very little.”

Muswell Hill Library update

Well – finally local residents are being invited in to look at the proposed scheme for Muswell Hill Library. The open evening is Wednesday 14 May at the library, 7pm – 8.30pm.

We are being invited to comment on the schemes being proposed by the architect. At least, thanks the my Liberal Democrat councillor colleague Gail Engert (Muswell Hill ward), the ridiculous consultation period offered by Haringey Council of just two weeks has now, after her persistence, been extended to a month. Still not long enough – but at least better than was the case.

Residents will be able to respond to the consultation by completing a form on the Haringey Council website – or through forms at the library. To see details of the proposed schemes, take a look at www.sprunt.net/muswellhill

The indicative timetable supplied by Haringey Council is:

End of June /early July 2008: submission of planning application
September 2008: Planning decision due
October –December 2008: marketing and disposal of site
January 2009: receipt of capital proceeds for expenditure on the library