Liberal Democrats demand action as CCTV post remains vacant

Liberal Democrat Crime Spokesperson Cllr Ron Aitken has demanded action after it was revealed that a key Haringey Council crime-fighting post has been left vacant for several months.

Minutes from Haringey’s Safer Communities Executive Board (18 February 2010) show that the post of CCTV Manager has been vacant for several months at a time when residents have been demanding measures to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. The funds allocated for the post have been used to provide temporary cover, but the Liberal Democrats say the lack of a permanent post-holder has caused other initiatives to be stalled.

Cllr Ron Aitken, Liberal Democrat Crime Spokesperson, comments:

“The lack of a permanent CCTV Manager is affecting other aspects of Haringey Council’s crime-fighting strategy.

“For example, a request by the Queen’s Road Neighbourhood Watch for a CCTV camera, to watch a notorious crime spot near Bowes Park over-ground station, was turned down.”

Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green adds:

“It’s really worrying that for months there has been no permanent staff member in such a crucial post – the effective use of CCTV does not simply depend on the cameras but on the people who manage and monitor them.

“With evidence that other aspects of the crime fighting strategy may be suffering as a result, Haringey Council needs to get its act together and recruit a permanent member of staff as soon as possible.”

Liberal Democrats welcome news of 24 hour Wood Green police station

Following a successful campaign by Liberal Democrats to improve police services in Wood Green, the local police have agreed to re-open Wood Green police station 24 hours a day. The news was revealed in a question to Liberal Democrat crime spokesperson, Councillor Ron Aitken, in this week’s Full Council, after Lib Dems expressed concern about the High Road police station front counter only being open until 9 pm.

Lynne Featherstone MP and the Liberal Democrat team have been campaigning for better police services for Wood Green residents and launched a survey in the Autumn to understand residents’ priorities on policing in the area.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“This is fantastic news for Wood Green residents. A lot of crime happens at night, but for some time now, local people have been poorly served by a barely operational police station.

“It’s so important just to know that the police will be there for you at any time, day or night, if something should happen. I think this will make a huge difference.”

Cllr Ron Aitken, Liberal Democrat crime spokesperson, adds:

“Being out on the streets, talking to local people, it’s clear having a 24 hour police station is high up on the wish list, so I really welcome this terrific news!”

“Enough is enough” on betting shops say Liberal Democrats

Horse racingHaringey Council should take swift and firm action to halt the surge in betting shops in the Wood Green area to limit crime and anti-social behaviour, local Liberal Democrats have said .

Speaking out against applications to Haringey Council for three new betting shops in Wood Green High Road and Green Lanes, Cllr Ron Aitken, Liberal Democrat Crime spokesperson, has said that Haringey Council needs to urgently lobby the Government to change the law to enable councils to limit the number amount of betting shops in an area.

Recent statistics revealed by the Liberal Democrats show that 735 incidents of criminal damage occurred in Haringey’s betting shops in the past two years as well drug related and public order offences.

Cllr Ron Aitken, Liberal Democrat Crime Spokesperson, comments:

“Statistics indicate that Haringey’s betting shops are a source of significant crime and antisocial behaviour, as well as being a nuisance to local residents.

“We are not against people having a flutter but enough is enough. Haringey Council needs the power to declare that no more betting shops should be allowed in Wood Green or Green Lanes.

“Labour need to lobby their own Government to give local communities the power to curb the ever increasing numbers of betting shops.”

Cllr Fiyaz Mughal (Noel Park) adds:

“The explosion of gambling and gaming venues blight Wood Green’s main shopping street and they do little to support the local economy

“It is time to call a time out and say that enough is enough. Such venues cannot be allowed to grow exponentially whilst the local authority is virtually powerless to stop them. I would be delighted to hear from any Noel Park residents who would like to help us take this campaign forward.”

Lynne Featherstone MP adds:

“I will be contacting the Government Minister responsible for the planning laws that leave Haringey Council and local residents powerless to stop betting shops taking over our high streets.”

Happy birthday to us!

I’ve been celebrating this week: I’ve just turned 4 – in MP years, of course!

This called for cake with friends and my wonderful staff. (Thank you, one and all.)

We remembered my four very eventful years so far, as Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green – here’s looking forward to the next five – hopefully!

Happy birthday to us!
(Pictured with Crouch End councillor Ron Aitken)

Sheer madness

Here’s my latest Ham & High column:

A woman came to see me recently to tell me of the appalling state of Haringey’s mental health services. Her husband is bi-polar and sometimes suicidal. From time to time he has to be admitted to the acute ward at St Ann’s – our local mental health facility.

She says the ward is enough to make you want to kill yourself. It is a ward with psychotic and highly disturbed patients. If you or I were placed in such a ward – we would be frightened – as was my constituent’s partner. He was so frightened he could not sleep at all due to the noise and disturbances from the other patients throughout the night – and of course these conditions hardly assist recovery or state of mind.

And when he’s at home and there are troubles – the theoretically 24-hour help is often on answerphone – and when not, she has even been advised just to give her husband warm milk! What a contrast with Camden, where – if you need help – a psychiatric nurse will come to your house to deal with the situation – and perhaps remove the need for admission to hospital.

To add insult to injury – with so many vulnerable people who need so much help – the Mental Health Trust is now proposing to reduce the number of acute beds at St Ann’s Hospital for those who do need admission. It may be unsuitable for some admissions – but it is all we have and we need a place of safety for those who are in acute crisis.

I am meeting with the Chair and Chief Executive and will point out how for many people, these beds are often the last resort. Acute wards are, even in St Ann’s, a place where a severely ill person is surrounded by professional nurses and doctors – even though the circumstances are clearly not ideal.

Haringey residents come to my advice surgeries to tell me how they have not been able to get their loved partner / child / parent admitted into an acute ward – despite obvious need. Of course each case has its own particular circumstances, but from questions I have asked in Parliament, it is clear that there are more people to each bed in Haringey than for almost any other area in London – and that’s before the proposed closures.

The Trust claims that people in acute need can be dealt with adequately in the community. I do welcome more support in the community, but in moments of crisis there must be the option for a higher degree of care and supervision.

And unless the care in the community is exemplary, then reducing beds in the in-patient facility we have seems mad. We should be investing in making the acute wards better – not reducing beds. My own angst is that the Trust is in such a state it is making these reductions for cost purposes rather than meeting the needs of those with mental health issues in Haringey.

The Trust is currently consulting on the issue – so now is the time for us to have our say. I am keen to hear your views, particularly if you have any direct experience of our local mental health services, so I can feed them into the consultation. You can write to me at or House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. Please indicate whether you wish for your views to be treated confidentially or if you are happy for me to share them with the Trust.

The consultation deadline is the 23rd March, so please make sure that I get your views before then. If you want to find out a bit more about the consultation, have a look at the Trust’s website.

Also, my Liberal Democrat colleague Councillor Ron Aitken is chairing a scrutiny review at Haringey Council on the proposals – two public meetings are planned . The first was on Monday 2nd March but the next is on Wednesday 25th March at 6pm at Haringey Civic Centre. Please do come along and share your views.

All too often mental health is treated as the Cinderella service of the NHS and rarely gets the prominence or the resources it needs and deserves. I am determined that this should not be the case in our Borough.

'Threat to parks police gets big response'

That’s the headline in the Hornsey Journal this week:

MORE than 500 residents concerned about council plans to cut Haringey’s parks police force have contacted the Liberal Democrats, a councillor claims.

The news comes as Labour-run Haringey Council announced consultation will begin on proposals to axe the parks constabulary and replace it with community policing which, it is claimed, will increase supervision in parks.

But Councillor Ron Aitken, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for policing and community safety, said there was widespread apprehension.

He said: “The Liberal Democrats have had over 500 responses so far from people who say they are very concerned about the parks police being disbanded.”

You can read the full story, including details of how to respond to the council consultation, here.

Haringey Council results

Well – it was very close! Massive Lib Dem gains, but not quite enough to take control of Haringey Council – Labour majority cut to just three (30-27 – no other parties have any councillors) with Lib Dems making 11 gains.

We also topped the vote across the borough – adding up the top votes in each ward – and actually now have councillors in a majority of the wards in Haringey. So – very close! Best every Lib Dem result, including our first councillors in Tottenham, many in Wood Green etc.

Lib Dem highlights:

Alexandra – 3 Lib Dem holds – Dave Beacham, Wayne Hoban and Susan Oatway re-elected

Bounds Green – 2 Lib Dem gains – Ali Demirci and John Oakes

Crouch End – 3 Lib Dem holds – Ron Aitken and David Winskill re-elected, joined by Lyn Weber

Fortis Green – 3 Lib Dem holds – Matt Davies and Martin Newton re-elected, joined by Sara Beynon

Harringay – 2 Lib Dem gains – Karen Alexander and Carolyn Baker

Highgate – 3 Lib Dem holds – Bob Hare and Neil Williams re-elected, joined by Justin Portess

Hornsey – 3 Lib Dem gains – Robert Gorrie, Errol Reid and Monica Whyte elected

Muswell Hill – 3 Lib Dem holds – Jonathan Bloch and Gail Engert re-elected, joined by Sheila Rainger (who has taken over my old council seat)

Noel Park – 2 Lib Dem gains – Catherine Harris and Fiyaz Mughal elected

Stroud Green – 1 Lib Dem hold and 2 Lib Dem gains – Laura Edge re-elected and Ed Butcher and Richard Wilson elected

Congratulations and commiseration to all candidates and helpers – both those who made it and those who didn’t, in all parties.

UPDATE: There are now further election result details on Haringey Council’s website.

Future of Red Gables

Off to meet parents and children at Red Gables – a special facility in Crouch End for children with particular needs.

Red Gables is a local success story helping children and parents and doing a great job. So of course, Labour want to close it. Lib Dem colleague Cllr Ron Aitken spotted this in the mountain of papers we get (for meetings we are not allowed to speak at). He contacted the parents and with local resident Sue Hessel brought it into the public forum. At council we have a deputation led by Sue and a motion moved by Ron.

It’s becoming quite a hot issue, with Labour not playing straight with residents about what their plans really are for Red Gables.

Day hospital campaigning

Meet the Chair of Haringey Primary Health Trust with local councillor colleague Ron Aitken. We want to present the case for a day hospital for mental health patients in the borough. Labour have just closed the two we had and we are not convinced that the ‘package’ of care meets the real needs of the patients.

Full Council

Hi jinks at a full meeting of Haringey Council. The tenants associations have turned out in force to object to Labour not having a ballot on the housing options for the future.  According to the barracking from the gallery, they applied to be allowed to speak six weeks earlier, but Haringey Council did not let them – trying to force them to attend a meeting of the Council Executive (which is a committee made up of just Labour councillors) rather than the full council meeting.

They weren’t having this and shouted out their rage with Haringey (well understood by most of us Lib Dems) and the Mayor suspended the meeting. I suggested that we should suspend standing orders to allow them to speak for three minutes (which would have taken a lot less than the half hour plus disruption we ended up with) – but this was ignored. Indeed, the Labour Mayor just ignored Cllr Ron Aitken (the Lib Dem chief whip) who had his hand waving in the air forever.

There was also a deputation from parents whose children have been left without school places for the autumn due to Labour’s inability to plan or provide adequate local places. This is not just about the usual few who do not get into any of the local schools – we are talking about 80 or so children. They were worried that the suspension of the council meeting would mean that they don’t get to speak.

Eventually, the police come and remove the poor old council tenants who have been silenced by the usual abuse of power by the Labour administration. Nothing new there!  The parents then got to make their deputation, presenting powerful arguments as to the need for local children to have places at local schools. We (LibDems) tabled a motion for that evening calling for the extra places to be provided for this ‘bulge’ year and a proper ten year plan. The plan should be based on the birth statistics, population movements in and out the key areas and the planned housing expansion in the borough.

It is usual to move such a motion which is related to a deputation to be taken directly after that deputation – as a matter of courtesy to those who came on the deputation if nothing else.  But Labour refused. The parents were absolutely furious and Labour do themselves no favours by frustrating democracy at every turn.