Diwali celebrated at Woodside House

Local Liberal Democrats attended the 14th Annual ‘I Can Care’ Diwali celebrations last Friday (9th October 2009) at Woodside House and vowed to continue their support for the charity.

Last year Labour-run Haringey Council planned to force ‘I Can Care’, a charity that gives welfare advice and provides computer, yoga and English classes for elderly Asian residents, to relocate in a £12million project to build a new Council chamber.

After a sustained campaign by local residents and Liberal Democrats, Haringey Council was forced to shelve plans and postpone the project.

Cllr Robert Gorrie, Leader of Haringey Liberal Democrats, comments:

“I am so glad that we are able to be here, joining ‘I Can Care’ in their fourteenth Diwali celebration, twelve months on from Haringey Council’s welcome u-turn.

“Thank you to Raj and all who continue to provide this invaluable community lead service for elderly Asian women in the local area.”

Cllr John Oakes, Bounds Green, adds:

“It is about time that Haringey Council made up its mind on the future of Woodside House and ‘I Can Care’. It is unfair that, at a time of the Festival of Lights, we are still kept in the dark on the future of ‘I Can Care’.”

Lynne Featherstone MP adds:

“We will continue to fight to ensure this marvellous community group has the right support and facilities, so it continues to be a success for its members.”

Liberal Democrat's criticise Labour's last minute attempt to gag community group

Liberal Democrats have condemned Haringey Council’s last-ditch attempt to stop Asian Older women’s user-group ‘I Can Care’ addressing the Full Council on Monday night by saying its £12 million plan to develop Woodside House is now “on hold”.

Council officials, backed up by Labour members at the meeting, tried to dissuade members’ of ‘I Can Care’ from presenting their deputation saying that it was no longer needed. Around 50 elderly members and 60 residents attended the deputation. However questions remain over how long the £12 million decision to move the Civic Centre will stay “on hold”. This uncertainty puts into further doubt the future of community groups and the luncheon club users who have been delivering services for over 20 years at Woodside House.

Liberal Democrats criticised Haringey Council for failing to notify ‘I Can Care’ chairman Raj Doshi of the delay in the Woodside house project until yesterday – although a press statement was issued by the Council last Friday. Haringey Council also failed to clarify many of the points raised by the deputation.

I Can Care’s 400 members, who currently meet in Woodside House, are worried about their future accommodation, and say Haringey Council has failed to offer a viable and safe alternative.

To date Haringey Council has spent £250,000 using external contractors on the Woodside House development but failed to consult local stakeholders fully.

Cllr John Oakes, Liberal Democrat spokesman for Community Involvement, commented:

“I think Haringey’s last-minute trick shows that it will go to any lengths to silence the community groups it says it supports if they start sticking up for themselves, or happen to mention an awkward truth. This little episode underlines Haringey’s real dislike of consultation and discussion.”

Protesting at the Council offices

Robert Gorrie and Lynne Featherstone with protestors outside Haringey Civic CentreYesterday saw big, big demonstration outside the Haringey Civic Centre by the group of Asian women and the workers from the ‘I Can Care’ charity. Tonight there was to be a Haringey Labour Cabinet meeting to decide (or rather rubberstamp more likely) the proposal to sell the Civic Centre (supposedly for lots of dosh) and move to Woodside House.

Well – in terms of selling the Civic Centre – one might think that choosing the moment of financial downturn that this country is experiencing means the price ain’t exactly going to be the best.

But we do need loads more social housing and affordable rentals – and if they could get a good price; if they have looked at alternatives; if their business plan is spot on – then worth considering. However, the move to Woodside House, not only displaces this I Can Care charity – who work with mainly Asian women to teach them English, computer skills and movement classes – but will cost a fortune. Estimates are being thrown around at £12 million.

Question to local people: Do you think that Haringey Council should spend £12 million on a new council chamber for Members to meet in and a registry office?. Or is there something else you think on which that money could be usefully spent?

It’s a no-brainer. Councillors could meet in Bernie Grant Centre or there’s a dilapidated council chamber still at Hornsey Town Hall or any one of a number of meeting places in the borough. It would be great anyway – and symbolic – if the councillors came out of a building and held their Full Council meeting in various parts of the borough. And we would save a fortune.

In terms of meeting rooms and offices – well the Council took on River Park House a few years ago – a massive office block – so it really is just a replacement for the council chamber and a registry office.

Now – as to the way they have moved on this – disgraceful. Despite both myself and Robert Gorrie (Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Haringey Council) writing to Labour Leader George Meehan to ask about the process, the alternatives, the business plan and what they were doing about ‘I Can Care’ – no joy and no answer.

Although judging by the anger and rudeness George displayed as he sped past the demonstration on the steps of the Civic – he just wants to steamroller this through without ever consulting with anyone. You know – whatever you think about the proposals – to not engage, not to have the civility to talk to the current tenants of the building – is just typical of why people hate Haringey Council.

And – to add insult to injury – ‘I Can Care’ have another couple of years to go on their lease. They have poured over £100,000 into the little side building to make it nice for those who come there to learn, and George Meehan apparently offered £1,000 if they would leave – presumably quietly. You couldn’t make it up!

Civic Centre plans misdirected say Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrats joined a protest against the lack of consultation over plans to relocate Haringey’s Civic Centre. Over 100 people from ‘I Can Care’ massed outside Haringey’s Civic Centre in Wood Green before the Haringey Council cabinet meeting.

‘I Can Care’, a charity that gives welfare advice and provides computer, yoga and English classes for elderly Asian residents, will be forced to leave their premises in Woodside House under Haringey Council plans to relocate the Civic Centre.

The decision to transfer civic functions to a new £12 million facility in Woodside House was agreed by the Labour cabinet. Local Liberal Democrats have branded the multi-million pound plans to relocate Haringey’s main civic building as unnecessary, providing little benefit to local residents, overlooking prime alternative sites and have called on Labour-run Haringey Council to reconsider their plans.

Cllr Robert Gorrie, Liberal Democrat leader, commented:

“Haringey Council has failed to involve residents in these plans or even consult groups currently using the site. I Can Care have invested significant amounts of their own money in the facilities. If the whole project is as sloppy as the initial consultation, it will be yet another Haringey Labour fiasco.

“I’m sure any resident in Haringey could come up with a better use of £12 million of their money than building a room for councillors to talk in, yet Haringey Council have not even considered asking.

“Haringey is blessed with an abundance of wonderful buildings that could be and have been used for civic functions – Tottenham Town Hall, Hornsey Town Hall, the Bernie Grant Centre, Alexandra Palace or the Irish Centre would all be fantastic venues.”

Lynne Featherstone MP added:

“Sadly the ‘I Can Care’ charity has come up against Haringey Labour’s ‘we don’t care’ attitude.In the current climate, Labour should be thinking about ways to reduce next year’s Council Tax bill not lavish unnecessary projects that will leave this special charity homeless.”

New civic centre might mean end for Asian charity

Fearing that a proposed relocation of the Civic Centre to their site will mean the end to their charity, Woodside House based ‘I Can Care’ last Friday invited Lynne Featherstone MP and Cllr Robert Gorrie, leader of Haringey Liberal Democrats, along to see some of their amazing local work.

The charity, which gives welfare advice and does computer, yoga and English classes for elderly Asian residents, only found out about the Labour-led council’s plans to move to Woodside House from a press release. Ms Featherstone is now writing to Haringey Council to ask what measures they are taking to ensure the future of I Can Care .

Lynne Featherstone comments:

“It’s shocking that Haringey Council has publicly announced this planned move to Woodside House without even mentioning it to ‘I Can Care’. There’s been no assurance from Haringey Council, no consultation, not even a phone call. That’s not what I call democratic!”

Robert Gorrie adds:

“Haringey Council’s lack of respect for this vibrant and well supported community group is as unacceptable as is the lack of clarity on how the Council have come to the view that Woodside House is a suitable location for a new Council Chamber. Have they asked residents whether this is a good use of tax payer’s money?”