Liberal Democrats meet luncheon club heroes and call for Council to do more

Lynne Featherstone MP and Cllr David Winskill with luncheon club users at Woodside House, Wood Green.To meet the local heroes who have kept a local luncheon club open despite loss of Council funding, Lynne Featherstone MP and Councillor David Winksill this week, visited Woodside House in Wood Green.

The visit included talking with luncheon club users about how they have managed to keep the Tuesday club going despite the complete cut in funding by the Labour Council last year. Whilst the club is now run by volunteers, it no longer provides hot meals or personal or medical help due to the lack of permanent staff. Uncertainty remains as to whether the current service will be able to keep going without more help.

Local Liberal Democrats have recently unearthed £1.5million that has been left unspent in the Council’s Older People’s Budget this year. This has raised serious questions as to why drop-in centres, day centres and luncheon clubs (like those in Woodside House) have closed if funding is still available. Only two of Hornsey and Wood Green’s four luncheon clubs have managed to stay open, leaving many older people in the borough without this essential lifeline.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“I am so impressed with these local heroes who have soldiered on to keep the Woodside luncheon club open, despite the loss of funding last year. But it’s been tough for them, they are now running a much reduced service and the future of the club is uncertain without cash to keep it going.

“Luncheon clubs are cheap to run, but give so much back, both to the individual and society at large. A little would go such a long way, and Haringey’s older people deserve to get their luncheon clubs back.”

Liberal Democrat Adult Social Services spokesperson Councillor David Winskill adds:

“It’s frankly appalling that the Labour Council has cut so fast and deep that £1.5million for older people’s services remain unspent this year. The money could have gone to keep luncheon clubs in the borough open. It’s clear from speaking to club users here today, that this service is loved and treasured, and sometimes the only opportunity some older people have to get out and meet other people.

“I am urging this Labour Council to put some money back into services that were cut last year to help support this very vulnerable group. The luncheon clubs are too important for Haringey’s older people and I hope that Labour Councillors will agree to my suggestions.”

Liberal Democrats meet Woodside luncheon club users in continued fight to save services for older people

Lynne Featherstone MP with concerned service users and providers at Woodside HouseAs part of the Liberal Democrat campaign to save Haringey’s older people’s day centres, drop-in centres and luncheon clubs, Liberal Democrats yesterday met with elderly residents at Woodside House.

Lynne Featherstone MP and Cllr David Winskill met with users of Woodside luncheon club at a consultation meeting organised by the Council who are planning to close the services to save £171,000 next year. 

The Liberal Democrat representatives urged all users to respond to the ongoing consultation, explaining in their own words how the closure will affect their lives. Many of the elderly people present expressed worries about becoming socially isolated, not getting a hot meal each day, and the loss of the treasured footcare service, should the club close.

Local residents who want to support the Liberal Democrat campaign against the closure can still sign the online petition on and visit to make their feelings felt.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“The Haringey luncheon clubs will cost £171,000 next year to run – that is a tiny fraction of the council’s £286million budget. It’s frankly outrageous that so many elderly residents will suffer to save such a small amount that can be found elsewhere.

“I know that difficult decisions have to be made – but my colleagues on the council have found significant back-office spending that can be cut without the most vulnerable in society suffering. I really hope that as many local residents as possible respond to the consultation, and show that closing this service is a poor way to save money. The Labour Council must rethink.”

Cllr David Winskill, Liberal Democrat Adult Social Services spokesperson, adds:

“The benefits of keeping the day centres and luncheon clubs open far exceed the paltry amount it will save the council each year.

“These clubs save the council, the NHS and other agencies large sums of money by helping to keep residents well-fed and healthy and out of the doctor’s surgery and hospital. But more so, they help create a sense of community and belonging for elderly residents, and these benefits cannot be counted in pounds.

“These services are cheap, and their benefits to society are returned a thousand fold. I will certainly make that clear in the Liberal Democrat consultation response – and I hope the users here today will do the same in their responses.”

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.”

Labour forced to support Liberal Democrat view on proposed £12m Civic Centre expenditure

Haringey’s Labour Council has been forced to postpone its £12 million plan to move the borough’s Civic Centre.

On Friday last week Haringey Council announced that due to the economic crisis enveloping the Council it would be postponing the move to Woodside House. Liberal Democrats have welcomed the decision but continue to call for the plan to be scrapped rather than just delayed.

In July Liberal Democrats formally challenged the Labour Cabinet plan to move the Civic Centre for various reasons including the financial and property market downturns. Again in August the Liberal Democrats challenged the proposals at a special scrutiny meeting, but Labour confirmed their plans to spend the £12m. Now after spending more than £250,000 on external consultants Labour have decided to agree with the Liberal Democrat concerns and postpone the project.

Last week it emerged that Haringey Council had invested £37million in failed Icelandic banks.

Cllr Robert Gorrie, Liberal Democrat leader, commented:

“This was always a £12m project that would be under-used, expensive and a waste of taxpayers’ money. It is a shame that it has taken an economic crisis that was already clearly visible in July for Labour to realise its folly.

“What is needed now is for Haringey Council to recognise that this project needs to be scrapped rather than put on hold.

“It is welcome that Labour has come to its senses but this is a small number next to the £37 million at risk in the Icelandic banks. Hopefully it is not the start of a long list of spending cuts.”

Lynne Featherstone MP, added:

“This will come as a huge relief to the organisations that were being evicted from Woodside House. It is disappointing that it takes a global financial crisis for Labour to listen to what we have been telling them for some time – now is not the time to sell off property and embark on major building projects.”

Woodside House update

I’ve blogged before about Labour’s plans to sell off the Civic Centre and move to Woodside House, so just to highlight the new story over on my website about how Labour decided to go ahead with the plan:

Labour members of Haringey Council’s ‘watchdog’ committee have voted to ignore residents’ views and rejected wider democratic discussion on controversial plans to spend £12 million on a new Haringey Civic Centre…

Liberal Democrats, who forced the special Overview and Scrutiny meeting, pointed out that this was the largest discretionary capital expenditure since the Council’s ill fated Tech Refresh IT fiasco where a £10m budget became a £22m cost to residents. They criticised the decision for committing taxpayers’ money in the current uncertain economic climate and the lack of consultation of residents and current users of Woodside House.

You can read the full story on my website.

Labour steamroller through plans to spend £12m on a new Council chamber

Labour members of Haringey Council’s ‘watchdog’ committee have voted to ignore residents’ views and rejected wider democratic discussion on controversial plans to spend £12 million on a new Haringey Civic Centre.

The Labour dominated committee refused requests from the Liberal Democrats and local stakeholders to refer the decision for further discussion at a Full Council meeting and instead voted to rubber-stamp the Cabinet decision.

Liberal Democrats, who forced the special Overview and Scrutiny meeting, pointed out that this was the largest discretionary capital expenditure since the Council’s ill fated Tech Refresh IT fiasco where a £10m budget became a £22m cost to residents. They criticised the decision for committing taxpayers’ money in the current uncertain economic climate and the lack of consultation of residents and current users of Woodside House.

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

“I am appalled by this flagrant extravagance, especially at a time when residents are struggling with rising rents, utility and food costs and just when the credit crunch is biting hardest.

“Labour have forced through a decision to spend £12m of residents money in order to produce what will likely be an empty white elephant that will serve to remind residents for years to come of the disaster that is Haringey Labour.

“This scheme has not had the examination that residents would expect for a scheme of this magnitude. Surely residents should be asked how they want £12 million of their money spent – yet Labour has once again ignored them and the hundreds of people who use the existing Woodside facilities will suffer as a result.”

Cllr David Winskill added:

“Overview and Scrutiny was an opportunity for Labour to have a look objectively at their decision to relocate the Civic Centre to Woodside House. There are clearly a host of uncertainties in the current plan and it would have made a great deal of sense for the Cabinet, particularly in the current uncertain housing market, to have taken a pause and ask officers to produce a more robust plan.

“I think that this will come back to haunt them in the coming years.”

Haringey Civic Centre Plan: Liberal Democrats force review

Liberal Democrats have forced a temporary reprieve on the sell-off of the borough’s Civic Centre by referring the decision for review by the Council’s watchdog. The controversial scheme approved by the Labour-run Council’s Cabinet on 28th July 2008 proposes a £12m overhaul of Woodside House in Wood Green and a new Haringey Council chamber built at the back.

The decision will be reviewed at a special meeting of the Council’s watchdog Overview and Scrutiny committee. The body has powers to force the Cabinet to reconsider its decision or to force the matter to be decided by an emergency meeting of the full council.

Liberal Democrats have demanded that Haringey Council reconsiders its plan and have proposed alternative actions: that residents should be asked whether they want to use £12 million for the scheme; current users of Woodside House should be fully consulted; no firm decision should be taken in the current uncertain economic climate to invest until funding is secured from the sale of the current civic centre site and that the Council investigates the opportunity to move Council meetings to different locations in the borough.

The special Overview and Scrutiny meeting will be held at the Civic Centre on Tuesday 19th August at 19:30.

Cllr Robert Gorrie, Haringey Liberal Democrat Leader comments:

“This lavish plan for a new Civic Centre at Woodside House demonstrates just how out of touch Labour are.The economic climate is simply not right, and with residents squeezed by the credit crunch and inflation, they don’t want to see the Council spending £12 million of their money on a new meeting room for councillors.

“We have countless buildings in Haringey that could hold Council meetings and ceremonies – Tottenham Town Hall, Hornsey Town Hall, Alexandra Palace, the Irish Centre and numerous school halls. Unfortunately, Haringey Labour lacks the vision to propose such a radical solution.”

Lynne Featherstone, local Liberal Democrat MP added:

“Time after time Labour’s reaction to challenge is to waste more of residents’ money by throwing cash at new projects. I’m sure residents would much rather have this money spent on schemes that would benefit everyone – not just councillors.”

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.”