Golders Green Councillor Dean Cohen cleared of bias over highways allocation

Cllr Dean Cohen was cleared of all bias

Cllr Dean Cohen was cleared of all bias

First published in News
Last updated
Times Series: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

A cabinet member accused of spending a “disproportionate” amount of money in repairing streets in his own ward made decisions which were not “as transparent as they should have been”.

Golders Green Councillor Dean Cohen has been cleared of all bias after a complaint to Barnet Borough Council’s monitoring officer Maryellen Salter.

However, an investigation did highlight a catalogue of errors made by council officers, as the decision was not sent to cabinet for formal approval.

Cllr Cohen, the former cabinet member for environment, allocated £800,000 of the authority’s £7m annual budget for 2013/2014 to his own ward – more than any of the other 20 electoral districts.

In a complaint to the council, Labour leader Alison Moore also accused Cllr Cohen of “favouring” his Tory colleagues when allocating the £4m figure.

However, although the top ten funding recipients show Conservative wards benefited more, the report, by legal firm Sharpe Pritchard, said there was “no political bias” involved in or during the decision making process.

It said: “There was no basis for concluding the list was compiled or altered for party political motives.

“The schemes are not allocated in such a way as to ensure that an equal amount of expenditure is allocated to each ward.

“This would be an illogical approach and would no doubt result in schemes being prioritised because of an area in which the roads were situated, rather than the need for repair.”

Although Barnet Borough Council originally thought taking such a decision was in the scope of Cllr Cohen’s powers under delegated authority from cabinet and three area environment committees, the report pointed out that this is not the case.

They agreed he had a right to be involved in drawing up the list, but said he breached the council’s constitution in not sending the decision higher.

The report said: “The consequence was that the decision making in relation to the list was not as transparent as it should have been.

“Whilst this lack of transparency is regrettable, it is probable the outcome would have been in the same if the final list of schemes had been subject to a formal decision making process.

“The investigator did not think there was a need for wider consultation about the proposed list of schemes, since the object was to prepare a list based on need.”

Councillor Daniel Thomas, deputy leader of the council, said: “As the report makes clear, the spending on the borough’s roads and pavements was made on the basis of need.

“However, it is also clear we could have been more transparent in publishing decisions earlier on the allocation of highways spend.”

The report does not make any recommendations as the cabinet system has now been scrapped in favour of a new cross-party committee system.

Defending the figures, Cllr Cohen told the Times Series earlier this year: “It is based on need. We have a list of roads that are a high priority and that is constantly reviewed.”

Comments (16)

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6:49pm Mon 11 Aug 14

gingis says...

What a whitewash!

It is well known that the boy Cohen specifically told officers to not spend in Labour wards.
What a whitewash! It is well known that the boy Cohen specifically told officers to not spend in Labour wards. gingis
  • Score: 11

8:23am Tue 12 Aug 14

Barnet Parker says...

More transparency is required here.

The report seems to suggest that the process was incorrect placing too much power in the hands of one individual. I would have thought that would provide an opportunity for political bias and yet, despite figures which show a massive disparity between Labour and Tory wards - none more dramatic than £800,000 spent in Golders Green v. £0 in Colindale - we are told such a conclusion is illogical.

I gather that the Highways Act requires all roads in the Borough to be inspected twice a year. Wouldn't it be better to have a independent Highways engineer to examine the reports and compare the defects on a ward by ward basis. Surely that would establish if the money spent was based on need rather than political bias once and for all.
More transparency is required here. The report seems to suggest that the process was incorrect placing too much power in the hands of one individual. I would have thought that would provide an opportunity for political bias and yet, despite figures which show a massive disparity between Labour and Tory wards - none more dramatic than £800,000 spent in Golders Green v. £0 in Colindale - we are told such a conclusion is illogical. I gather that the Highways Act requires all roads in the Borough to be inspected twice a year. Wouldn't it be better to have a independent Highways engineer to examine the reports and compare the defects on a ward by ward basis. Surely that would establish if the money spent was based on need rather than political bias once and for all. Barnet Parker
  • Score: 13

10:34am Tue 12 Aug 14

Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog says...

No political bias? Erm? Read the actual 'review', whose rather astonishing conclusion is as follows:

To quote from the 'investigator's own words:

"Whilst it is clear that the data supports the view that there has been more expenditure in administration held wards, this does not justify drawing a conclusion that there has been
political bias".

What would you reasonably call it, then, spending more money in Tory wards, in the last year before an election, other than 'political bias'?

The high spending Tory wards were in more affluent areas, and arguably less likely to need repairs to pavements and roads. Yet they were lavished with money: highly marginal Hale, being the most obvious example, while Labour wards were deprived of funding - Colindale receiving NOTHING, not one penny, in the last year, despite long agreed work that needed to be implemented.

For the Cabinet Member's own ward to receive more than a million pounds in this pre-election period (not £800K, Barnet Parker) is, in my view, simply scandalous.

One road alone in this ward, in two years, was given more than some Labour wards for their ENTIRE budgets. How can that possibly be justifiable?

It is quite clear that this issue now requires a truly independent and wide ranging external inquiry in order to investigate whether or not Barnet tax payers' hard earned money has been used as it should be, for the equitable benefit of ALL residents.
No political bias? Erm? Read the actual 'review', whose rather astonishing conclusion is as follows: To quote from the 'investigator's own words: "Whilst it is clear that the data supports the view that there has been more expenditure in administration held wards, this does not justify drawing a conclusion that there has been political bias". What would you reasonably call it, then, spending more money in Tory wards, in the last year before an election, other than 'political bias'? The high spending Tory wards were in more affluent areas, and arguably less likely to need repairs to pavements and roads. Yet they were lavished with money: highly marginal Hale, being the most obvious example, while Labour wards were deprived of funding - Colindale receiving NOTHING, not one penny, in the last year, despite long agreed work that needed to be implemented. For the Cabinet Member's own ward to receive more than a million pounds in this pre-election period (not £800K, Barnet Parker) is, in my view, simply scandalous. One road alone in this ward, in two years, was given more than some Labour wards for their ENTIRE budgets. How can that possibly be justifiable? It is quite clear that this issue now requires a truly independent and wide ranging external inquiry in order to investigate whether or not Barnet tax payers' hard earned money has been used as it should be, for the equitable benefit of ALL residents. Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog
  • Score: 9

10:41am Tue 12 Aug 14

nlygo says...

time to throw a spanner in the works...

maybe more money needed to be spent in Conservative wards as when Labour when in office they may have spent more money in their wards. however I dont have any facts to back this us, hence the spanner...

lots of roads in Burnt Oak have been resurfaced recently. a staunchly Labour ward.

no inquiry needed.
time to throw a spanner in the works... maybe more money needed to be spent in Conservative wards as when Labour when in office they may have spent more money in their wards. however I dont have any facts to back this us, hence the spanner... lots of roads in Burnt Oak have been resurfaced recently. a staunchly Labour ward. no inquiry needed. nlygo
  • Score: -10

2:08pm Tue 12 Aug 14

Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog says...

Facts, dear nlygo, facts: Burnt Oak shares a long road boundary with the neighbouring borough and is therefore unable to withhold funding from the joint schemes that are necessary.

More facts: how many years ago was there a Labour administration, and when are you Tories going to stop blaming Labour for your own mistakes - and by the way the system of allocation, until Cllr Cohen took charge, was one of EQUAL amounts to wards, so no scope for disproportionate funding.
Facts, dear nlygo, facts: Burnt Oak shares a long road boundary with the neighbouring borough and is therefore unable to withhold funding from the joint schemes that are necessary. More facts: how many years ago was there a Labour administration, and when are you Tories going to stop blaming Labour for your own mistakes - and by the way the system of allocation, until Cllr Cohen took charge, was one of EQUAL amounts to wards, so no scope for disproportionate funding. Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog
  • Score: 6

5:12pm Tue 12 Aug 14

AverageBarnetResident says...

FACT: - The independent investigation found no wrongdoing.

Mrs Angry's highly partisan "opinion" could not be of less value. The FACTS speak for themselves.

Next up for complete exoneration... Cllr Rayner.
FACT: - The independent investigation found no wrongdoing. Mrs Angry's highly partisan "opinion" could not be of less value. The FACTS speak for themselves. Next up for complete exoneration... Cllr Rayner. AverageBarnetResident
  • Score: -9

5:50pm Tue 12 Aug 14

James NW7 says...

AverageBarnetResiden
t
wrote:
FACT: - The independent investigation found no wrongdoing. Mrs Angry's highly partisan "opinion" could not be of less value. The FACTS speak for themselves. Next up for complete exoneration... Cllr Rayner.
No more partisan than you dear chap...
[quote][p][bold]AverageBarnetResiden t[/bold] wrote: FACT: - The independent investigation found no wrongdoing. Mrs Angry's highly partisan "opinion" could not be of less value. The FACTS speak for themselves. Next up for complete exoneration... Cllr Rayner.[/p][/quote]No more partisan than you dear chap... James NW7
  • Score: 2

6:45pm Tue 12 Aug 14

Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog says...

Average Barnet Tory: facts - read the report, friend - yes, they did find wrongdoing, but of course are blaming it on the officers ...
Average Barnet Tory: facts - read the report, friend - yes, they did find wrongdoing, but of course are blaming it on the officers ... Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog
  • Score: 6

12:53pm Wed 13 Aug 14

AverageBarnetResident says...

For clarity, Cllr Cohen is cleared of any wrongdoing.

That is not partisan, it is FACT.

Glad we cleared this up :)
For clarity, Cllr Cohen is cleared of any wrongdoing. That is not partisan, it is FACT. Glad we cleared this up :) AverageBarnetResident
  • Score: -8

9:30pm Wed 13 Aug 14

Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog says...

Average Barnet Tory: better read the review and acquaint yourself with - yes - the facts ... the 'review' says this:

"Advice on decision-making process In my view the decision-making process was not correctly followed. The power to make
decisions in relation to these matters was delegated to the Area Environment Sub- Committees. If it was not possible to convene meetings of these sub-committees then either the decision should have been taken by Cabinet or, in reliance on the delegated authority
given by the Cabinet meeting of 4th November, the decision should formally have been taken by Councillor Cohen and the requirements of the Council’s Standing Orders should have been met"..
Average Barnet Tory: better read the review and acquaint yourself with - yes - the facts ... the 'review' says this: "Advice on decision-making process In my view the decision-making process was not correctly followed. The power to make decisions in relation to these matters was delegated to the Area Environment Sub- Committees. If it was not possible to convene meetings of these sub-committees then either the decision should have been taken by Cabinet or, in reliance on the delegated authority given by the Cabinet meeting of 4th November, the decision should formally have been taken by Councillor Cohen and the requirements of the Council’s Standing Orders should have been met".. Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog
  • Score: 4

1:43pm Thu 14 Aug 14

AverageBarnetResident says...

Thank you Mrs Angry, for once again proving my point :)
Thank you Mrs Angry, for once again proving my point :) AverageBarnetResident
  • Score: -6

10:22am Fri 15 Aug 14

Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog says...

Average Barnet Tory: thank you for proving the point that the average Barnet Tory is incapable of admitting when he is wrong.

But then we knew that anyway.

Mrs Angry x
Average Barnet Tory: thank you for proving the point that the average Barnet Tory is incapable of admitting when he is wrong. But then we knew that anyway. Mrs Angry x Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog
  • Score: 4

12:00pm Fri 15 Aug 14

JabberwockyBarnet says...

Just a thought.

Perhaps the highway budget is not being allocated on party lines at all.
Maybe the roads that need the most repairs are those where Barnet Council allowed Virgin Media to cut through the reinforced concrete slab to lay TV cables. It's funny the council highways inspectors didn't notice, isn't it !
Of course, running 8" thick groups of cables under major roads covered by only 9" of tarmac, is not legal, but it is much cheaper, though it does cost significantly more when the highway collapses, There must be miles of highways throughout the borough. where this has been done. Just hope that you don't drive cars or own houses along these routes.

Aren't you glad that, as Cornelius says, your council tax is being "wisely spent" ?
Just a thought. Perhaps the highway budget is not being allocated on party lines at all. Maybe the roads that need the most repairs are those where Barnet Council allowed Virgin Media to cut through the reinforced concrete slab to lay TV cables. It's funny the council highways inspectors didn't notice, isn't it ! Of course, running 8" thick groups of cables under major roads covered by only 9" of tarmac, is not legal, but it is much cheaper, though it does cost significantly more when the highway collapses, There must be miles of highways throughout the borough. where this has been done. Just hope that you don't drive cars or own houses along these routes. Aren't you glad that, as Cornelius says, your council tax is being "wisely spent" ? JabberwockyBarnet
  • Score: 0

3:24pm Fri 15 Aug 14

Barnet Parker says...

The only facts the report confirms are:

1) The top 10 wards to receive the most were Tory wards - there are only 21 wards so you could conclude that most Labour wards prop up the list.

2) The process used to decide how the money should be distributed was incorrect and lacked transparency..

Bizarrely the report concludes that the spending was based on 'need' yet produces no facts on which to draw this supposition and continues the tradition of opaqueness. If this had been submitted as A-level coursework I think we would be looking at a failure this week.

As I stated before a possible measurement would be for an independent engineer to review the last 2 years worth of highway inspections and analyse where most defects occurred. Another measurement might be to analyse the number of accidents pedestrians reported on Barnet's pavements. I'm sure wiser people than me could think of other scientific approaches to measure whether there was political bias. Sadly this report has adopted no approach whatsoever and yet draws a conclusion.

That the politicians spin such a shoddy report as fact comes as no surprise - that's why most people no longer bother to vote. That the Monitoring Officer - who is supposed to engender the trust of the public -can accept the findings from such a half baked piece of work is disturbing.

Sharpe Pritchard - could do better. See me.
The only facts the report confirms are: 1) The top 10 wards to receive the most were Tory wards - there are only 21 wards so you could conclude that most Labour wards prop up the list. 2) The process used to decide how the money should be distributed was incorrect and lacked transparency.. Bizarrely the report concludes that the spending was based on 'need' yet produces no facts on which to draw this supposition and continues the tradition of opaqueness. If this had been submitted as A-level coursework I think we would be looking at a failure this week. As I stated before a possible measurement would be for an independent engineer to review the last 2 years worth of highway inspections and analyse where most defects occurred. Another measurement might be to analyse the number of accidents pedestrians reported on Barnet's pavements. I'm sure wiser people than me could think of other scientific approaches to measure whether there was political bias. Sadly this report has adopted no approach whatsoever and yet draws a conclusion. That the politicians spin such a shoddy report as fact comes as no surprise - that's why most people no longer bother to vote. That the Monitoring Officer - who is supposed to engender the trust of the public -can accept the findings from such a half baked piece of work is disturbing. Sharpe Pritchard - could do better. See me. Barnet Parker
  • Score: 5

3:51pm Fri 15 Aug 14

Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog says...

Very well said, Barnet Parker ...
Very well said, Barnet Parker ... Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog
  • Score: 6

8:06am Sat 16 Aug 14

Barnet Parker says...

Aw shucks Mrs A.

You're wise on such matters, What can be done about it?

Can you answer the question I asked about her arbitrary decisions re. the Mayoral investigations? Who monitors the Monitoring Officer?
Aw shucks Mrs A. You're wise on such matters, What can be done about it? Can you answer the question I asked about her arbitrary decisions re. the Mayoral investigations? Who monitors the Monitoring Officer? Barnet Parker
  • Score: 4

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