The future of the Spires shopping centre, "disgraceful" empty nursing homes and Barnet Borough Council's controversial One Barnet outsourcing scheme were among subjects put to Chipping Barnet's MP.

Theresa Villiers MP defended cashless parking and plans to contract out council office work at a question and answer session with The Barnet Society.

She also said she was in touch with the owners of the Spires after a sale deal collapsed, only to begin talks with another buyer shortly afterwards.

UBS Triton, owners of the High Barnet shopping centre, including the dilapidated Barnet Market car park site, received a new offer from a potential buyer last week.

Speaking about the plans, Ms Villiers confirmed last Friday: “I’m in touch with UBS and their agents and I’m urging them to get on with it.”

Further questions included whether a referendum should be held over the council's One Barnet outsourcing programme.

Ms Villiers said: “I don’t think so. The council has to find a way to do things more effectively. Change is not a comfortable process, but I have questioned the leader and his colleagues about the contracts and they assure me they will continue to provide the highest quality of service for residents. I’ll be holding them to account on that.”

Ms Villiers was also reminded of how she said the pay-by-phone system was the “best thing for everyone” at a meeting held almost one year ago.

But contrary to her claims, one member said the system is “choking the few shops that are left” in the area.

Defending her opinion, Ms Villiers said: “I know the move to cashless parking was controversial, but I still believe that it’s a sound system.”

Concerns were also raised about two former nursing homes that have been left empty. One is in Wood Street and the other is opposite The Arkley pub.

Ms Villiers said: “It is exasperating. I have taken it back and forth to the primary care trust and hospital trust who own the sites and I have taken it to secretary of state level.

“I think it is disgraceful those buildings are empty. It’s high time they’re used to their full effect.”

Ms Villiers pledged to campaign further to make sure the buildings are brought back into use.