After campaigning today I went to our campaign office to speak directly with my Agent. The office is very busy with local activists completing tasks that will contribute to us winning this election. I remain ever grateful to all those people who work so hard on a voluntary basis – none of my team is paid for by the taxpayer.
Our nomination papers have been submitted but it appears that the elections office does not know how the law works in reality. I remember at the last general election that the postal ballot papers were not sent out until just a few days before the election, which some what defeats the point of a postal vote for people who will be away up to and on polling day. This resulted in one of the candidates telephoning the Chief Executive at home very early one Saturday morning and shouting that he would take legal action if this affected the result of the election (it did not). There was also a problem at the last Mayoral and London Assembly elections when polling stations ran out of ballot papers because of a counting mistake.
The latest problem is that the elections office refused to take more than one nomination paper from any of the candidates, even though the law clearly states that up to three may be submitted and published. During the course of the day the elections office do call my agent and make their apologies and say they got it wrong, and in turn I pass that apology on to all the people who signed the additional two nomination papers that were not accepted by the election office at Barnet Council.
I can already hear some critics saying ‘well you are a member of the council so why don’t you sort it?’ The simple answer is that the work and decisions taken about the elections are removed from councillors and it is a power delegated to officers of the council. This is to ensure fairness and transparency and most councillors are keen to keep a distance between themselves and the elections office. But that doesn’t mean we should not criticise when they get things wrong…
The evening sees me at my last ever full council meeting. In my eight years as a councillor in Hendon I have never missed one such meeting and have, on the whole, enjoyed the debates. It is unfortunate that many are pre-prepared and simply read out at the meeting, ignoring previous contributions made as the debate moves forward. I genuinely believe there are some very good councillors who will continue to make a positive contribution to the borough after the next council elections.
After asking questions about the regeneration schemes in both Colindale and West Hendon, I seek further information about how some of the policies I introduced have been used by local members. Disappointingly the answer is that some have not engaged in the very areas I was trying to address (shopping trolleys abandoned in West Hendon and around Brent Cross).
The final speech I give as a councillor allowed me to speak about the housing policy of the council and where I want improvements to be made. I am pleased that work is going ahead at Stonegrove and Grahame Park building the homes of the future. The best part of the scheme is that the tenures will be split – this means there will be homes for both sale and rent which will develop mixed communities and avoid the mistakes of the past.
I also made comment about seeing the West Hendon regeneration under way. The scheme appears to have stalled because it is short of a tiny bit of Kick Start money which is needed to bridge the funding gap and get work underway. Barnet Council is shortlisted but has to wait until after the election for the actual decision. I am disappointed at the delay in setting this last key stone in place as it looks like politicians are playing with peoples’ lives for electoral advantage. National politics does not always help local projects get advanced in a timely way but, if elected, I look forward to redressing this and making sure that local people in West Hendon get a better slice of the cake.