Lynne Featherstone MP on visit to festive arts class for Christmas card competition

Lynne Featherstone and year four students at Highgate primaryTo see the children at Highgate Primary in full creative Christmas spirit, drawing entries for her fifth annual card competition, Lynne Featherstone MP on Friday visited the Storey Road school.
 
This year the Hornsey and Wood Green MP has decided not to set a theme for the competition, instead the children are encouraged to draw what Christmas means to them. The Highgate children were drawing a range of colourful designs, from Christmas trees to stars and snowmen. The competition deadline is the 11th November, and the winner will be announced shortly after that.
 
Lynne Featherstone MP comments:
 
“It’s so wonderful to see the children having so much fun and getting in to the Christmas spirit as they create their festive designs for the competition.
 
“The decision this year to have an open theme has worked really well – the kids are really using their full imagination and creativity to make wonderful colourful, sparkling designs.
 
“I have certainly seen some real contenders here, and can’t wait to see the rest of this year’s entries!”

Lynne Featherstone MP visits special dads' playgroup at new Highgate children's centre

Lynne with parents and children at Highgate Dads' ClubOn a tour of the new Highgate Children’s Centre on Gaskell Road today, Lynne Featherstone MP got the chance to chat with fathers who attend the centre’s unique ‘dads club’, a special playgroup for local stay-at-home dads and their kids.

The club, one of only a handful in London, was started by a local dad and has been running twice a week since the centre opened in the spring. The Liberal Democrat MP, who has long been campaigning for special dads’ clubs to help involve dads in their children’s education – so called ‘dads and doughnuts clubs’ – was excited to see such an outstanding example on the site of her old primary school.

The Gaskell Road centre, which has proven highly popular since it opened in May, is also helping local parents with health care, information and general child care.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“The club is brilliant! Being a stay-at-home parent can be hard – and the dads club offers a unique chance for Highgate dads to share experiences with people in the same situation. I would love to see similar groups start-up all over the borough.

“Highgate has long been in need of a children’s centre, and this place is a true gem! They run a fantastic range of playgroups and the dedicated staff offer invaluable support to new mums and dads. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

Local MP kick-starts new term by visiting her old school

Lynne Featherstone visiting Highgate Primary Year 6On her first local visit after being re-elected MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, Lynne Featherstone on Friday went to visit her old school, Highgate Primary, to help the children write a special school magazine with stories from old and new students.

The year six students from the North Hill school asked the Liberal Democrat MP about what was different when she was a student there. They also go the chance to ask the new Home Office Minister what it was like to be in Government, and what made her become an MP in the first place.

Lynne Featherstone ended the visit by attending a special assembly, where some of the younger students did their own take on the book ‘Where the Wild Things Are’.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“What a wonderful way to kick-start a new term in office, by coming back to my old school, chatting with such incredibly bright and interested students, and reliving old memories.

“And topping off the visit by seeing the children do their own version of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ was just fantastic. Especially when I got to join in the ‘monsters munch’ dance! Such fun!”

Full investigation needed on ‘crackpot’ roundabout development plans, say Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrats in Highgate have slammed Haringey Council for refusing to act over the future development of a key site at the gateway to Highgate. Liberal Democrats say Haringey Council’s ‘crackpot’ approach could see the busy gyratory system, at the top of the Archway Road, used for building flats. The fact that Haringey owns the land just adds insult to injury, say local Liberal Democrats.

Previous plans, although now on hold, for development at 505 Archway Road, propose to build one commercial property on the ground floor, six two-bed and one one-bed residential flats above. Highgate Liberal Democrat councillor Neil Williams has asked for a full planning brief for this sensitive site – but this has been turned down by Labour-run Haringey Council.

Cllr Williams says the refusal to act is also the height of hypocrisy – Haringey Council is rightly investing with Transport for London (TfL) in removing the gyratory system in Tottenham Hale, but is willing to contemplate building housing in the middle of a gyratory in Highgate.

Cllr Neil Williams (Highgate), comments:

“It’s clear Haringey aren’t bothered about putting a block of flats in the middle of this traffic roundabout – but it is a totally crackpot idea. You would wonder how on earth such a bizarre idea ever got this far. It adds insult to injury, that Haringey is the owner of this land.

“We need a full planning brief, for local residents to have a full say on the plans for this important entrance to Highgate.”

Lynne Featherstone MP adds:

“Haringey Council needs to fully consult on this key Highgate site, or it will show they are ignoring local residents.”

MP helps local disabled resident let down by Haringey Council

Lynne Featherstone and MichelleA disabled woman who has spent a year and a half in the same room without access to normal bathroom facilities has this week got extra support from local MP Lynne Featherstone to make sure Haringey Council delivers on their year-old promise to build her an accessible toilet and shower room.

Highgate resident Michelle, who is bed-ridden and in severe pain following an operation 18 months ago, cannot use the stairs and upstairs bathroom. In April 2009 she was assured by Haringey Council that a downstairs bathroom would be built. 11 months later, after full plans have been drawn up and the case given the highest priority, the work still hasn’t started.

Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone, who recently visited Michelle to see the dreadful situation for herself, has now intervened and demanded that Haringey Council gives a definite date for when work will start.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“Michelle has been to hell and back, and frankly having to wait almost year for Haringey Council to deliver on their promise to get her an accessible bathroom adds insult to injury!

“It’s a question of decency and with full planning sorted and the space cleared for work to be carried out, I’m honestly at a loss as to why she keeps being fobbed off.

“This has been going on for too long. She needs that bathroom and Haringey Council needs to start work now – no more excuses!”

Highgate resident Michelle adds:

“Through the years I have had to deal with Haringey Council on many occasions. I have always tried to deal with issues myself first, but often have had to turn to Lynne for help – with her help I for instance got the Council to put in a disabled bay in front of my house.

“The situation I’m in now is so difficult, but hopefully with the help of Lynne, I will soon have my new bathroom.”

Northern Line closures: 20 months of misery ahead for local residents

Lynne Featherstone with local councillors Bob Hare and Neil Williams at Highgate tube stationLocal residents will not be able to use the Northern Line from local stations in Highgate, Archway and Finchley at weekends until December 2011 after tube operator, Tubelines, announced 82 weeks of weekend closures, starting on 27 March 2010.

The Liberal Democrats have launched a petition against the closures, saying that they will affect residents travelling into central London and will also have a detrimental effect on local traders in Highgate High Street and Archway, who rely on shoppers travelling in on the tube.

Liberal Democrats on the Greater London Authority (GLA), concerned that the issue has turned into a fight between a Tory Mayor and a Labour Government, rather than focusing on the needs of Londoners, have launched a five-point plan to ensure a better upgrade of the Northern Line, without the mass suspensions currently planned.

Cllr Martin Newton, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson, comments:

“Local residents rely on the Northern line to get around at weekends. Twenty months of suspensions just increases the misery faced by travellers on the ‘Misery Line’.”

Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, adds:

“We all want a better Northern Line, but not when local residents have to put up with 82 weeks of weekend closures.

“Many local traders in Highgate and Archway rely on trade coming from tube users. It is unfair for these businesses, already feeling the pinch due to the economic situation, to bear the brunt of these closures.

“I hope that local residents and traders alike will support our fight against the closures and the Liberal Democrats’ five point plan to a smoother upgrade of the Northern Line.”

Local Liberal Democrats step up the campaign against Northern Line closures

Lynne Featherstone collecting Northern Line petition signaturesTo help raise awareness of the proposed 82 weeks of evening and weekend closures on the Northern Line and to gain further support for their campaign Liberal Democrats have been out collecting petition signatures around Highgate Station.

Lynne Featherstone MP, Highgate councillor Rachel Allison and local Transport spokesperson Councillor Martin Newton spent Wednesday afternoon chatting with tube users at Highgate station and received strong support for their petition to get a better deal for commuters.

Local Liberal Democrats are concerned that local traders and residents will bare the brunt of the disruption caused by the 82 week plan, which is due to start on the 27th March.

The Hornsey and Wood Green MP has written to Transport for London (TfL) and Tubelines, urging them to consider an alternative five-point plan put forward by Liberal Democrats on the Greater London Authority which seeks to reduce the effect on local residents and traders.

Any Northern line user who wants to sign the petition should either go to http://campaigns.libdems.org.uk/northernline or call Lynne Featherstone’s office for a hard copy of the petition.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“We all want to see an upgraded Northern Line but the current plans will make residents suffer for almost a year and a half as the upgrade work is carried out on the Northern line – this is frankly absurd.

“It’s good to see that local residents share our concerns about how disruptive these works will be, and are keen to seen a less painful solution. By putting a strong case for a fairer upgrade deal to the people in charge I am hopeful we can get a better solution.”

Highgate Councillor Rachel Allison adds:

“I’m really worried that local traders in Highgate and Archway will suffer if their weekend trade is continually disrupted like this.

“From chatting to local Northern line users, it’s clear that a deal that doesn’t prolong the pain is preferable. Please take a minute to sign the petition and back our campaign.”

Whittington A&E

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

I sent out an email to my special email list to ask for people’s personal stories of when the Whittington Accident & Emergency had been important in their lives – and got a phenomenal response. (If you want to be on this list just email lynne@lynnefeatherstone.org and say so).

I will be presenting these to all the members of all the boards of all the layers of NHS decision makers who are working out our future health services (and there are many of them) and to the government in due course – to try and remind them that this about people’s lives – and that we are not just pawns on some management chessboard.

The clue is in the title of the service – ‘emergency’ – and some of the stories tell how the ambulance man or woman has said we must go to the nearest hospital because x won’t make it if we don’t – every second counts.

Now every resident of Muswell Hill and Highgate who has contacted me about this is quite clear about the importance of having a full 24/7 A&E locally. Distance matters both for saving lives but also for ease of access. And quite frankly the Whittington is far better placed for public transport than the Royal Free for us.

The decision makers are arguing that distance isn’t always important and that extra GP hours, NHS Direct and pharmacies can be a viable alternative. But no amount of extra GP hours or even an urgent care centre (which is one of their alternative suggestions) can replace a full A&E service. This is insanity being wrapped up and sold to us under the guise of ‘better clinical outcomes’. Yes – there are people who use A&E who don’t need to – but taking away A&E isn’t the answer – adding a GP walk-in where those people could be diverted to – could be.

If our A&E goes – as sure as night follows day – we will also lose obstetrics and the Intensive Care Unit. There will be no emergency take from GPs and it will compromise the teaching of medical students at the Whittington.

As for the funding, I put it directly to the Minister, Mike O’Brien, in an Adjournment Debate on the Whittington, that there is a fear that this is about cuts and budgets. The Minister assured me, on the record, that there would be no ‘slash and burn’ solutions and that all of this was about better clinical outcomes.

Well – for all those stories where people would have died if there had not been an A&E at the Whittington – seems to me being alive is a pretty good clinical outcome.

Whittington A&E: 4 out of 7 scenarios end 24/7 service

Full credit to Rachel Tyndall (Chair of the North London Central Review Panel) for sending me the NCL Strategy Plan for our local health services. I had heard that these had been submitted to NHS London and asked for a copy – and it was given to me virtually immediately. I have circulated the document for information.

The content is of concern. First let me say – this is a long, technical document – in which the arguments are laid out for the configuration of health services across five boroughs and between five hospitals: Barnet, Royal Free, North Mids, UCLH and the Whittington. Ms Tyndall has said that a more accessible version for public consumption will be provided in due course.

In the appendix, are laid out, seven ‘scenarios’. This is where the fight to Save the Whittington A&E will come – if these are the ‘options’ that come for public consultation next autumn.

The seven ‘scenarios’  demonstrate different configurations between the five hospitals as to what services will be provided from each hospital. It is about a total provision – obviously – not just A&E. Suffice to say that four out of the seven ‘scenarios’ show an end to 24/7 A&E at the Whittington. Three show retention of 24/7 A&E.

Interestingly two of the ‘scenarios’ show a reduction to 16 hours A&E – however – from the minutes of the Board Meeting of the Council of Governors of the Whittington it is quite clear that the the 16 hour A&E is not a real option. The actual wording from the minutes of the meeting of the Council of Governors of the Whittington reads (and I quote directly):

Very importantly NCL and the Whittington have ruled out an option where the Whittington has an A&E with reduced opening time eg 16hours per day. This leaves options where either the full 24 hour A&E is retained or there is no A&E at all. The Whittington might then have an urgent care centre.

So – I don’t know why NCL have included two options showing a 16 hour A&E as clearly that has already been ruled out. This makes me wonder if options have been put in that are not really and truly under consideration but are there to make two of the options look better than they are – as they seem to offer some A&E rather than none. I will seek clarification on this seemingly conflicting evidence.

The greater problem for all of us fighting to save the Whittington A&E – is that as long as there are any ‘scenarios’ that don’t retain 24 hour A&E – we are in jeopardy. So – we need the public consultation next autumn to simply ask those who use the Whittington whether we want to retain the 24 A&E service or whether we would prefer the alternative range of provision at the polyclinic, GP extra hours, urgent care centre etc favoured by NCL and the Trusts.

Anything else opens the way to closure of A&E at the Whittington.

At this point – it is a battle to make sure whatever options finally come forward for consultation- that if local people want to retain a 24 hour A&E at the Whittington – it is retained!

Northern Line catastrophic proposals

When I heard the magnitude of the scale of the closures that Tubelines want during their upgrade of the Northern Line I thought they must be taking the you know what!

Sixteen months of early evening closures and something like 83 weekends – and we are talking major closures – either the whole caboodle and/or north of Stockwell. They must be bloody mad!

I could say ‘I told you so’ – ‘cos I did – endlessly when Labour forced the PPP (private public partnership) on us for the tube. The contract is a nightmare – and now we in North London (and the other end of the Northern line obviously) are about to be tortured endlessly by this dreadful arrangement.

Boris has woken up late – as usual – hope someone is checking what he said about the PPP! As Mayor he is now saying let’s change the contract to another private company. That would be out of the frying pan into the fire AND would cost a fortune to get out of the existing contract I bet. The shareholders wanting a slice is much of the current problem and definitely a huge whack of the ginormous price tag of £6 billion that Tubelines are asking for.

£6billion! It could be done for £4 billion I am sure – if the  shareholders and profiteers were not guaranteed under the PPP contract their rake off before the work even begins.

No – our best bet – is for Tubelines to want out of the contract themselves. Then LU / TfL who already had to rescue Metronet when they went under (the other private public partnership) to take over. Blimey – just when you think it can’t get worse – it does.

Having been Chair of Transport in London for nearly five years when I was on the London Assembly – and knowing a little bit about engineering and repairs as a consequence – I am sure that Tubelines have asked for way more closures than they need. The reason – well they would get charged a penalty probably if they over ran their agreed closure time – and so rather than risk penalties – I bet they have asked for loads more time in closures then is actually needed.

So – I have got my fingers crossed – just hoping that Tubelines want to get out of the kitchen!