A cabinet member in charge of the borough’s roads has spent a “vast” and “disproportionate” amount of money repairing streets and pavements in his own ward, according to his predecessor.
Councillor Dean Cohen, the Conservative cabinet member for environment, allocated £800,000 of the authority’s £7million annual budget for 2013/14 to his own ward of Golders Green – more than any of the other 20 electoral districts.
His predecessor, expelled Conservative politician Brian Coleman, described the spending as “pork barrel politics at its worst” – a term used to describe the actions of politicians who divert money to their own ward to garner favour with the electorate.
Councillor Coleman, who was removed from his cabinet role in 2012 after he lost his seat on the GLA and was charged with assaulting a woman in North Finchley, said: “It is pork barrel politics at its worst – it is outrageous. I would never have done it. I occasionally did minor projects for colleagues but never diverted vast amounts of money to my own ward.
“Everyone pays their council tax and in my 16 years as a councillor I’ve not seen such a disproportionate spend. In an election year as well - it is disgraceful.”
The £800,000 spent in Golders Green this financial year more than doubles the £330,000 total each ward would receive if the cash was spread equally.
Councillor Cohen, who was appointed in May 2012, scrapped the previous policy of equal allocation to wards in favour of a new system, under which highways officers identify areas of greatest need.
Defending the figures, he said: “It is based on need. We have a list of roads that are a high priority and that is constantly reviewed.
“It comes to me and I make suggestions and take things out but it is always based on the need of an area.
“I live in my ward so I am able to identify problems but if the need is in Golders Green then I’m not going to spend money in other areas just because they are not my ward.”
In response to Councillor Coleman’s written question on the agenda for tonight’s full council meeting, Councillor Cohen insisted that the additional cash handed to Golders Green makes up for a “lack of investment in previous years”.
Speaking to the Times Series, he added: “I’m here to represent the whole borough and spend the money wisely. It is very easy to criticise but I actually went around the whole borough with the officers because I know in previous years roads had work done that didn’t need doing, and I didn’t want that happening again.”