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 lynne@lynnefeatherstone.org).

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.

Revealed: the 26 "priority one" roads that Haringey Council failed to grit

As the cold snap tightens its grip, local MP Lynne Featherstone has sent Haringey Council bosses a list of 26 “priority one” roads and a further 64 “priority two” roads in Haringey that were not gritted during December’s snowfall. Local Liberal Democrats have said that this calls into question Haringey Council’s ability to cope with the severe weather and have demanded that HaringeyCouncil is better equipped.

The lists, which were put together after over 200 residents responded to Lynne Featherstone’s call for evidence, shows how widespread dissatisfaction with gritting of local roads has been.  The list shows that 26 of the roads reported are “priority one” roads, despite Haringey Council saying that these are supposed to be gritted first as they are major thoroughfares and bus routes.

Earlier in the week, Lynne Featherstone and Cllr Robert Gorrie contacted Haringey Council, demanding that more grit be made available so local residents can grit untreated pavements after reports that grit bins were empty.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“It’s deeply worrying that so many roads which Haringey Council said would be prioritised were not treated properly after the first heavy snowfall in December. Now that the cold weather is continuing I hope that Haringey Council learns from its mistakes and ensures that these major routes are clear and safe.

“It’s clear that better preparations are needed to protect residents from the major risk of accidents and falls that come with the icy roads and pavements.”

Martin Newton, Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson, adds:

“Having seen how poorly stocked the grit bins in Muswell Hill and in many other places throughout the borough are, I really worry that residents, especially the elderly and vulnerable, are put at risk every time they leave their homes.

“The pavements are so icy and residents need to have the opportunity to treat the surface themselves if Haringey Council is not doing it for them.”

The 26 “priority one” roads:

Albert Road, N22
Alexandra Park Road, N22
The Avenue, N8
Cranley Gardens, N10
Crouch End Hill, N8
Crouch Hill, N8
Dukes Avenue, N10
Elmfield Avenue, N8
Ferme Park Road, N4, N8
Fortis Green, N10
Fortis Green Road, N10
Inderwick Road, N8
Middle Lane, N8
Mount View Road, N4
Muswell Hill Broadway, N10
Muswell Hill Road, N6
North Hill, N6
Oakfield Road, N4
Ridge Road, N8
Rokesly Avenue, N8
Shepherds Hill, N6
Station Road, N22
Weston Park, N8
Woodside Avenue, N6
Woodland Rise, N10
Southwood Lane, N6

The 64 “priority two” roads:

Beech Drive, N22
Avenue Road, N15
Arcadian Gardens, N22
Berners Road, N22
Birkbeck Road, N17
Blake Road, N11
Bloomfield Road, N6
Causton Road, N6
Cecile Park, N8
Causton Road, N6
Cavendish Road, N4
The Chine, N10
Cholmeley Crescent, N6
Cholmeley Park, N6
Claremont Road, N6
Coolhurst Road, N8
Cranbrook Park, N22
Crescent Road, N8
Cromwell Avenue, N6
Crouch Hall Road, N8
Earlham Grove, N22
Etheldene Avenue, N10
Farrer Road, N8
Florence Road, N4
Gathorne Road, N22
Gisburn Road, N8
Gladwell Road, N8
Glasslyn Road, N8
Granville Road, N4
Grasmere Road, N10
Grosvenor Gardens, N10
Grove Avenue, N10
Grove House Road, N8
Haringey Road, N8
Hermiston Avenue, N8
Highgate Avenue, N6
Langdon Park Road, N6
Lascotts Road, N22
Lyndhurst Road, N22
Montenotte Road, N8
Muswell Avenue, N10
Myddleton Rd, N22
Nightingale Road, N22
Onslow Gardens, N10
Palmerston Road, N22
Park Avenue South, N8
Parkhurst Road, N17
Roseberry Road, N10
Southwood Avenue, N6
Southwood Lawn Road, N22
Stanhope Gardens, N6
St Albans Crescent, N22
St James’s Lane, N10
Sylvan Avenue, N22
Talbot Road, N22
Tivoli Road, N8
Twyford Avenue, N2
Western Road, N22
Wolseley Road, N8
Womersley Road, N8
Woodfield Way, N11
Woodside Road, N22
Woodstock Road, N4
Vallance Road, N22

Local MP test drives Oyster PAYG on local train after long running campaign

After a long-running campaign to let residents use their Oyster Pay As You Go (PAYG) on local trains, Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone was finally able to tap in with her Oyster card, as she travelled from Alexandra Palace earlier this week.

But the Hornsey and Wood Green MP, who has been running a campaign to get the PAYG smart cards on the trains since 2008, has today raised concerns about some of the more complicated aspects of the scheme.

Residents with travelcards on their Oysters, who travel outside their pre-paid zones, have to get an Oyster Extension Permit (OEP) before starting the journey. These can only be obtained from local Oyster retailers or tube stations, and not at local train stations. The Hornsey and Wood Green MP, who’s got the backing of Transport for London, has today again written to local train company First Capital Connect, to demand that the OEPs be scrapped.

Click here to see a video of Lynne on her maiden Oyster PAYG journey on the local trains.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“It’s fantastic to finally be able to use my Pay As You Go Oyster card when travelling on local trains. This will make it easier for residents to get around. At last we have one integrated system.

“But the whole idea of the Oyster Extension Permit is frankly absurd. Oyster is supposed to make it easier for people to travel – not harder by forcing them to go to a local shop or tube station to pop an electronic permit on the card first.

“I will keep pushing for First Capital Connect to drop this idea – there must be an easier way.”

Cllr Martin Newton, local Liberal Democrat Transport spokesperson, adds:

“I’m delighted that persistence has paid off. Hopefully the integrated Oyster system will mean that more residents chose to use public transport and leave the car at home.”

Liberal Democrats criticise ‘Scrooge’ council for festive parking fees

Haringey Council has been criticised for penalising shoppers at Christmas-time, after it was revealed that parking restrictions will be enforced on Boxing Day, despite many other councils in London waiving fees.

Local Liberal Democrats say that Haringey Council should change its mind and give shoppers free parking, to support local traders in the recession.

Thirteen London councils have confirmed that they will not impose parking restrictions on 26 December.

Cllr Martin Newton, Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson, comments:

“Boxing Day is a public holiday, yet Scrooge-like Haringey Council has failed to get into the festive spirit and give shoppers free parking.

“This issue also has a serious economic message.  After a hard year, the Christmas season is a key time for local traders. Haringey Council has gone some way to recognise this through free parking in some of our town centres, but failing to give free parking on Boxing Day is another kick in the teeth for local businesses.”

Lynne Featherstone MP adds:

“Christmas is a time for giving and receiving, yet Haringey Council seems to be fixated on receiving money, rather than giving something back to the local community by waiving parking fees on Boxing Day.”

Concern at lack of funding for Children’s Centre

Families in Fortis Green have been short-changed by Haringey Council, local Liberal Democrats have said, after it has emerged that Haringey Council will only provide £5,000 to fund a new Children’s Centre in the ward.

Whilst the announcement of further funding for children’s centres in Haringey was welcomed, local councillors have criticised Haringey Council for failing to provide universal cover for families, despite the need and deprivation in the area.

Similar phase three spending on children’s centres includes £495,500 for Highgate, £300,000 for Crouch End, £85,000 for Stroud Green and £150,000 for West Green.

Cllr Martin Newton (Fortis Green) comments:

“Despite being the only ward in the borough not to have a Children’s Centre, Haringey Council has once again overlooked the families of Fortis Green. Five thousand is a pitiful amount to provide a key service for local residents.”

Lynne Featherstone MP adds:

“This is a bitter blow to Fortis Green. It has taken Haringey Council years to wake up to the fact that there is a need and now, this low-level of funding is almost derisory. Labour needs to end the East/West divide and wake up the real need to fight deprivation across the entire borough.”

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.”

Liberal Democrats welcome news of Oyster Pay As You Go on trains from January

After a long-running campaign to enable local residents to use their Oyster Pay As You Go (PAYG) cards on overland trains in Haringey, local Liberal Democrats have welcomed the news that the scheme will finally go live from the 2nd January 2010.

Although welcoming the long-awaited news, local MP Lynne Featherstone has today raised concern over the complicated details of the scheme. From January travelcard holders will need to get an extra electronic permit if travelling outside their travelcard zone making the scheme “unwieldy and overcomplicated” Lib Dems say.

The Oyster Extension Permit (OEP) system means that any residents with an Oyster travelcard, who need to travel outside their travelcard zone, will have to obtain an OEP before travelling to avoid having to pay a penalty fare. The OEP will not be available at train stations, but only from Oyster card retailers, like local shops, and from the ticket office at tube station.

The Hornsey and Wood Green MP has written to the London Mayor, Transport for London and First Capital Connect, to demand that the OEP system be dropped and for a simpler system to be introduced.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“It’s great that we will finally be able to swipe in with Oyster Pay As You Go from January. This is long-awaited news and will make it easier for residents to use the trains.

“But sadly the system that the Mayor has negotiated with the train companies is unwieldy, confusing and overcomplicated. The idea of this Oyster Extension Permit is frankly ludicrous.

“I have raised this issue with the Mayor, TfL and the train company. Hopefully this absurd idea can be dropped.”

Cllr Martin Newton, Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson, adds:

“If you have to travel outside the zones paid for with your Oyster travel-card, you first need to go to a shop or a tube station to get this electronic permit. That means an extra trip and extra complication, and goes against the logic of using Oyster – which is meant to provide easier ticketing.”

Local MP demands hazardous bus stop on route to health centre must move

The bus stop on Muswell HillFollowing a successful Liberal Democrat campaign where Transport for London (TfL) agreed to consult on moving a poorly located stop on the only bus route to Hornsey Central, Lynne Featherstone MP has now submitted her and local residents’ responses to the consultation.

Local Liberal Democrats have long been campaigning for the first bus stop on the W7 route in Muswell Hill, the only direct bus to the Park Road Health Centre, to be moved up to Muswell Hill Broadway. In the summer, Ms Featherstone and Cllr Martin Newton met with TfL representatives at the bus stop to highlight the hazard of getting down the steep slope for less mobile and elderly residents. As TfL agreed to look into the issue, MP Lynne Featherstone wrote to local residents to get their views on moving the bus stop, and included all responses in her submission to the consultation.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“This bus stop is very poorly located, and it’s great to have been able to make such a strong case for moving it up the Broadway thanks to the many responses from local residents.

“One letter in particular paints a very stark picture. A woman in her seventies, trying to push her husband in a wheelchair down the steep slope, and literally having to bend over backwards not to lose control. The bus stop needs to be moved before anyone gets seriously injured; otherwise I fear it is only a matter of time.”

Councillor Martin Newton, Lib Dem Transport spokesperson adds:

“It’s great to see that so many people have written to us with their stories. TfL is bound to sit up and take notice – and rest assured we’ll keep a close eye on this one.”

You can watch more about this story in this YouTube clip:

The video is also available on the YouTube website.

Hornsey Hospital bus campaign – new success

Travelling to the new Hornsey Hospital may soon become easier for disabled and elderly residents, after Transport for London last week agreed that they would consider changes to a ‘problem’ bus stop.

It follows a campaign by local Liberal Democrats to move the first stop on the W7 and 144 routes from Muswell Hill, due to the current stop being on a very steep slope and hard for disabled and elderly residents to reach.

The success is part of a wider Liberal Democrat campaign to improve the transport links to the Hornsey Hospital.

Local Liberal Democrats are now encouraging residents to contact Lynne Featherstone MP about the proposal, before she responds to a TFL consultation on the issue. Residents can either email Ms Featherstone on lynne@lynnefeatherstone.org or call the office on 020 8340 5459, before October 13th 2009.

Cllr Martin Newton, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson, comments:

“I am very glad that Transport for London has now decided to look into providing a first stop for the W7 and 144 on Muswell Hill roundabout. Local residents with buggies and disabled and elderly people find it hard to access the bus stop on the steep hill.”

Lynne Featherstone MP adds:

“This is a great success for our campaign to get more buses and transport for residents to Hornsey Hospital. I’m delighted that Transport for London are looking into moving the bus stop, and I hope many local residents will take the time to contact me in support of the move.”

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.