Muswell Hill Area Assembly

Lots of familiar faces as I walk into Lauderdale House at the bottom of Highgate Village and in Waterlow Park. I am there to address the North London branch of the University of the Third Age on “Transport Challenges in London”. Funny really, as I grew up in Highgate and used to go to the park every Saturday when I was little to feed the squirrels and the ducks. Home beat.

These are the sort of occasions I love – firstly because I love my subject and also I find groups of the not so young often make a fascinating audience. They are interested, intelligent – and have reached a stage in life where more often than not they say exactly what they think.

I enjoyed it. They enjoyed it. It was a really pleasant morning.

In the evening, it was the Muswell Hill Area Assembly. The main item of the day is the bids for how to spend the £50,000 allocated to the Area Assembly to spend on local projects in the current financial year.

Haringey Council has ‘given’ this amount to each Area Assembly. Although the Muswell Hill Area Assembly covers a larger area than others, it has the same amount of money. Anyway, local residents have sent in suggestions for small projects to be funded.

They were listed and pinned up on the wall with space for people to stick their little green sticker dots – so they can indicate which ones they support the most.

The first thing that happened was some bloke jumping to his feet and saying it was disgusting that Wayne Hoban (the chair of the Assembly and a Lib Dem councillor for Alexandra ward) had put information about the Assembly on a LibDem website. ‘This was political and disgraceful’ the chap said.

Wayne handled this really well – and explained calmly and rationally that he had put the information out to a wide email base of local people so that lots of people could know that the vote on the bids was taking place and not just the usual suspects who come to area assemblies. And in fact attendance was higher. The full details of the bids were put up on the web so people could see them – if they wished – before the meeting.

Given that people normally complain that there isn’t enough information about what Haringey Council is up to, it was a pretty strange sight to see someone complaining about someone making an effort to distribute more information! But all became clear…

The bloke continued and continued to harangue Wayne when another chap from the audience (who were getting fed up with this interruption to the business of the day) demanded that the bloke making the accusation state who he was. He said his name and that he was chair of the local Conservative Party – at which point the whole audience turned on him.

The meeting then continued with a presentation on a review into the condition of pavements. I have often taken council officers to view pavements that are dangerous that residents have phoned in about but about which no action has been taken – and then it is done within 24 hours.

This is not just because of my nagging (!) but also because pavements which are too uneven can leave the council open to being sued if someone trips and hurts themselves.

The greater problem is that Haringey Council has had no program for replacing ordinary cracked pavements that are not legally dangerous. Now, seemingly, there is a planned program of replacement. I asked what they were going to do about replacing paving stones where they had done a repair in an emergency and whacked down tarmac / asphalt – and left it like that for years. The response was somewhat half-hearted I thought – i.e. yes we will get round to it sometime.

In the break the audience took their green stickers and voted on the bids for projects. The results will be published in due course after the councillors look at all the bids to fund as many as possible of the most popular ones.

Only one day to go!

Thank goodness only one more day. Five to six hours of delivering leaflets a day is beginning to take its toll. On the other hand, I have a fabby tan and toned muscles. I do always regard elections as a get fit opportunity – a counterweight to the meetings I sit in for most of the time.

The BBC telephone me and want to come and film me to go out on the news. Now, I am dressed somewhat informally in shorts and T-shirt – but decide as this is meant to be politic real, I will stay thus dressed and be seen ‘au natural’. I telephone Wayne Hoban, the LibDem GLA Enfield and Haringey candidate to join me as they want someone else on the knock as well.

Happily, he too is dressed in shorts. And we knock on doors. No preparation – no set up – but wonderful happenstance. The first door was an elderly Asian man who was voting LibDem. The next – there was a crisis with a baby, then a few ‘outs’ and then, the piece de resistance, a young bloke who had always voted Labour but this time, for the first time, was voting Lib Dem. And he gave the reasons: Iraq, top-up fees, loss of trust – the list is becoming endless.

I was pleased, because I had told the camera crew that this was what was happening on swathes of doorsteps – and here was a real life example of what I had said was the case being demonstrated in fact to be the case. Hurrah!

PS Several comments to me on my legs following broadcast of campaigning Lynne on doorstep – in my old feminist days I would have been insulted – with advancing years I am just grateful!

Simon Hughes visits

Simon Hughes (Lib Dem Mayoral candidate), Wayne Hoban (GLA Enfield and Haringey constituency candidate) and myself went walkabout in the borough.

I took Simon to Crouch End first to have a look at the Town Hall – the big issue in the area. Then a walk about. Simon went into practically every shop and talked to every passer by. Then on to Queens Lodge (or what is left of it) the building that fell down in Queens Avenue and on which Labour has refused an inquiry into why the council didn’t stop this happening.

Then a walkabout in Muswell Hill. I particular liked the man who Simon introduced himself to but responded – I want to talk to Lynne!

Then lastly to Haringey Heartlands – where Haringey Council is not working particularly well with local residents – surprise! Whenever residents point out that the housing they are hoping to put on the site will need an infrastructure and may be too much – they simply throw their hands up and say the Mayor of London says so.

Of course, if Simon wins, he too wants lots of housing, but his targets will include any residences being brought back into use counting towards those targets (e.g. empty properties or flats above shops). That will really help the boroughs resist developers who simply want to shove non-affordable housing on backland sites.