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Elections: Who runs Barnet - You Decide
With just weeks to go before voters rush to the polls to decide who will take the helm at Barnet Borough Council, the Times Series catches up with the main parties to find out what they plan to bring to the borough.
The council is currently made up of 38 Conservatives, 21 Labour, three Liberal Democrats and one Independent – but all of that could change on May 22.
This will be the Tories' first election since the ruling group brought in the controversial One Barnet Programme aimed at outsourcing services in an attempt to save money.
Council leader Councillor Richard Cornelius rejected claims his party has lost touch with the electorate, adding they would “continue the success of the last four years” if they are re-elected.
He said: “We will see the regeneration schemes through. I think these will provide the housing that people need in Barnet.
“We’ll continue to invest in the roads – we’ve repaired an amazing number of potholes but it seems there’s the same number to do again, but we’ll get on and get them done.
“And we will continue to look at everything the council does to see if there’s a better way of delivering it. We’re going to continue to drive down the bureaucratic cost of running the council.”
In some cases, this will mean outsourcing services, but Cllr Cornelius said if services can be done better and more efficiently in-house, then that would be the case.
But Barnet’s Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Jack Cohen slammed the One Barnet Programme, dubbing it a “total disaster” and claiming all services should be kept in-house.
He said: “If we have any influence, our promise is to call the officers in and say ‘how do we get out of this mess’.
“It’s really important that we keep our services local and they’re not taken over by international companies who answer to their shareholders and not to the residents of the borough.”
Cllr Cohen said his party wants to “restore trust” in the council, claiming people have lost faith with the current Tory administration.
He said: “We believe that the way the council’s been run takes no account of what local residents say. We want to bring policies that involve real consultation, real partnership and real discussions with our residents.”
Barnet Labour group leader Councillor Alison Moore agreed that the “trust and confidence” has to be restored in the council to create a “better Barnet for everyone”.
Speaking about her party’s main objectives, she said: “The key things are around restoring fairness and democracy, tackling the cost of living crisis and being generally ambitious for our borough.”
Labour has also pledged to build more council homes, tackle rogue landlords, create more jobs, improve parking, develop more affordable childcare and hold private companies involved in the One Barnet Programme to account.
Cllr Moore said: “In the first instance we’ve got to challenge and hold Capita to account for the promises they’ve made to deliver good value services.
“If it’s not working that’s a different issue, but it would have to be a pretty catastrophic failure to pull out of that contract without it costing the tax payer millions of pounds.”
Speaking about the possibility of continuing with One Barnet, Cllr Moore said Labour would look at making improvements in-house first and foremost before considering sharing services with other boroughs or partner organisations, using the private sector as a last resource.
Meanwhile, Andrew Newby, chairman of Barnet Greens and a candidate for Coppetts ward, pledged his party would continue to oppose housing overdevelopment, support recycling and maintain the borough’s parks and green spaces.
The Greens are also keen to use the Sustainable Communities Act to help preserve Barnet’s assets and develop new ones, as well as introduce 20mph speed limits in all residential and shopping streets, and bring privatised services back in-house.
Mr Newby said: “The 20mph scheme would decrease accidents, encourage people to use their neighbourhood shops and encourage children to walk or cycle to school.”
And speaking on behalf of the borough’s UK Independence Party (UKIP) candidates, Barnet’s UKIP chairman Chris Apostolou said they are also against the One Barnet Programme.
He added: “We’d always go for local referendums on big issues and we want to protect overdevelopment in the area.
“If the population is booming we have to build somewhere, although we won’t allow building on the greenbelt. I think it’s best to spend money on redeveloping run-down estates.
“The ultimate way to solve the housing crisis is to stop the London population exploding. We would prioritise people who have been living in the area the longest, and so for example, have a five year rule when giving out council housing.
“And the Tories are making property development expensive by following carbon rules and regulations, but you could build housing cheaper without this.”
The Conservative Party has 63 candidates nominated for the elections, Labour and the Liberal Democrats also have 63 candidates each, while the Green Party has 49 and UKIP has nine. There are also three Independent candidates and two who are not affiliated to any party.
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