Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg spoke about the housing crisis, cuts to government spending and strike action during a visit to Finchley today.
The Conservative and Liberal Democrat party leaders were invited to Pentland Brands global headquarters in Squires Lane, to meet its researchers, developers and designers.
Both praised the work of the family-owned business, which has seen sales grow by 18 per cent in England and 33 per cent internationally over the past five years.
As well as calling the firm a “real gem”, the pair also took some time out to discuss the current issues affecting Barnet.
Mr Cameron was asked about Premier House, Edgware, which is due to be converted from offices to flats after a change in the law left Barnet Council powerless to refuse a change of use request.
He said: “We all know we need more housing in London, that’s probably the number one issue across all London boroughs and allowing greater flexibility so you can turn often empty office space into housing is right.”
He also said cuts to government funding were not possible.
The Prime Minister said over the next year, Barnet’s spending power has been reduced by 1.6 per cent, which is less than the national average.
He said: “We must stick to our long-term economic plan. The key part is to get that deficit down and avoid the mistakes of the past.
“We’d be betraying people if we had to go back to the high-spending, high-taxing and high-borrowing past we are escaping from.”
Mr Clegg was asked whether care workers from Your Choice Barnet were right to strike following plans to introduce a 9.5 per cent pay cut.
He said: “I will always defend people’s rights to strike. The care sector is incredibly important as lots of people rely on it and it’s a huge help to many families across the country.
“It helps protect the vulnerable folk, but is notorious for being a sector where there’s low pay, which is why we’ve made sure minimum wage goes up to a higher rate than ever before.
“I don’t want to see innocent members of the public, and the most vulnerable people in our society, suffer from these disputes. It’s always best for employers and employees who are in dispute to seek to resolve them, rather than to have other people drawn into the dispute and suffering as a result.”
He was also quizzed about the Brent Cross Regeneration Project, which will see 7,500 new homes built in the area in the next ten years.
However, many have raised concerns about over development and the fact that this will inevitably mean the loss of green spaces in the area.
He said: “We should be up front about the housing crisis. We should be building a quarter of a million houses every year just to get supply and demand to roughly match.
“We need to stop this constant spiralling of prices which means so many young people these days the dream of getting on the first rung of the property ladder really is just a dream.
“The crucial thing is to build new homes which enjoy as much support locally as possible, and doesn’t carpet over the great swathes of green spaces people care so much about.”