Saturday, 29 June 2013

Delights of Finchley Church End

I’m proud and privileged to represent Finchley Church End ward, a pleasant part of Finchley with a rich history.   Much of Finchley Church End town centre is actually in West Finchley ward (the ward boundary is the tube line) but the ward still boasts a good variety of shops, businesses and services some of which are below: 

St Mary’s Church – beautiful historic church which is Finchley’s oldest.  Parts of the church building date back to the 13th and 15th centuries.  It is thought the site was used for religious purposes as far back as 600AD.  The Blue Beetle community hall is available for hire.

Finchley United Synagogue – known locally as Kinloss, a vibrant part of the community which has an impressive banqueting hall.

Parkway Patisserie – offers gorgeous pastries and cakes.  I hope the redevelopment of Gateway House sees Parkway remaining on, or close to, their current site as it’s a popular business.

The Catcher in the Rye – a cosy pub with a good selection of ales, lagers and wines.  Decent food for a pub! 

Jonny’s Barber Shop - reasonably priced barbers with lively walls.

Two Brothers Fish Restaurant – very popular and busy restaurant which also does excellent fish and chips to take away.

Avenue House Estate

Avenue House Estate - Beautiful house and grounds kept in pristine condition through the generous hard work of its volunteers and trustees.  Home to the Stephens Collection, a small museum dedicated to the ink inventor who gifted the estate to the people of Finchley.  The grounds have a café and can be enjoyed any time of the year.  Attractive function rooms and office space are available for hire.

Sternberg Centre – the largest Jewish community centre in Europe.  There’s always something going here.   The grounds include the manor house with a rich history and links to the local area.  

Finchley Cricket Club – offers a high standard of cricket facilities and is home to the local Middlesex premier league team. 

Zizzi’s – a chain restaurant which guarantees quality, tasty and reasonably priced Italian cuisine.  The lightly battered calamari and spicy calzone are favourites of mine.

Izgara  - Turkish restaurant where you will not be disappointed with the portion sizes.  The mixed grill is a must.

Windsor Open Space

Windsor Open Space – part of the Dollis Valley Green Walk, this stretch of open land is green and pleasant, particularly along the brook.  A new play area and various other improvements were added recently thanks to funding from Mayor Johnson.

Cake Create – lovely café on Holders Hill Road with a substantial menu and a personalised cake service.  Makes for a good pit stop when delivering leaflets!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Two Sides to Every Story

Barnet has its fair share of online story tellers.  Here are two examples illustrating why their stories should always be taken with a pinch (or scoop!) of salt…..

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of speaking at a Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents’ Association ‘Open Meeting’, the topic of which was ‘One Barnet’.  One reason I accepted their invitation was because it was a ‘non-political’ event. By ‘non-political’ I mean the body organising it wasn’t doing so in order to promote a particular view or as an excuse to harangue those they disagree with.  The RA simply asked me to explain One Barnet to ordinary, open minded residents in a factual format and answer questions. 
This was in stark contrast to a BAPS meeting where the Council Leader had no chance of a fair hearing from the assembled members of the local anti-council/anti-Conservative/anti-cuts brigade.  I’ve seen a video snippet of the event. When the picture pans out to the audience 90% can be named by anyone active in Barnet politics and you can easily predict the questions.  Their concerns are genuine, of that I have no doubt, but to pretend the audience was a gathering of ordinary, open minded residents mobilised by suddenly hearing about back office outsourcing and who could have been swayed one way or the other is misleading.  They were activists plain and simple: BAPS members, Labour party members, former Labour party members, former Lib Dems, unsuccessful candidates in the 2010 election, trade union members and their friends. 

At the Open Meeting, I explained the borough’s challenges and how the Council is attempting to address them. For most, the detail of One Barnet and the rationale behind it was interesting and, with exception of the BAPS activists in the room, it was clear none found it at all ‘radical’ or ‘controversial’.  There were thoughtful and considered questions asked but no one was saying ‘this is a grave mistake’ or ‘please stop this’, except for the BAPS members of course.  There was no widespread disapproval from the audience and I saw many nods of agreement. 

Standing at the front of the room I had the best view of the audience. Having been forwarded a BAPS account of the evening I was amused by its interpretation of events.  What they could not see, of course, were significant numbers of the audience shaking their heads every time BAPS asked a question and the rolling of eyes at the realisation these were attendees with an axe to grind.  When the issue of a referendum was raised by BAPS, one gentleman quietly muttered ‘Oh god’ followed by ‘Do shut up’!  Before anyone says, it wasn’t Cllr Harper or I!  My response to the referendum question was a summary of the speech I made at the previous Council meeting. It was clear the audience did not share BAPS’ enthusiasm for a referendum costing £200,000 and instigated by just 2% of the Borough’s population.  BAPS are blind to the fact that nobody else shares their obsession with outsourcing or One Barnet and that while a very small number of residents are interested in the technicalities of service delivery, far more simply want quality outcomes and controlled council tax.

The next day I received two e-mails from attendees I’ve not met before expressing their gratitude for my contribution.  One stated she was not a Conservative voter but would be tempted to vote for us for the first time after attending the meeting and that she felt the borough was in ‘safe hands’(ward councillors have seen the message before the usual cynics cast their doubt!).

Exactly what the other attendees thought I do not know, but I do know this: HGS residents, like the rest of Barnet, are intellectual and assertive. They would have all left me without any doubt if they disliked my presentation.  As is often the case in politics, it’s the vocal minority who dominate the airwaves.

Another example of distorted reporting is that of Barnet’s independent councillor in a recent attempt at explaining the former Stanley Road playing field situation.  In this particular ‘account’, I was described as ill-advised and only having pound signs in my eyes when considering the sale of the aforementioned site.  What the author didn’t know, understand or neglected to mention, was that I had met with Sports East Finchley some time before the CRC meeting at which I invited all bidders for the land to come up with a compromise between development and community use.  I could have advocated selling to the highest bidder, but I didn’t.  From that decision the current situation arose. 

So there you go, beware what you read and, more importantly, what you believe.  Some people will not let the truth get in the way of a good story!