OpinioN8

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Exercise one part of your democratic prerogative. Read, and if you agree, sign this petition to save Hornsey Town Hall.

One of the things we in Britain pride ourselves on is our democratic heritage. We celebrate 800 years since the Magna Carta and our MPs and councillors hold surgeries every week in convenient places around each ward or constituency. But just at the moment the system is not working for Crouch End and one of Crouch End's major problems, the disposal of the Town Hall.

Both Mark Afford and David Winskill of the Hornsey Town Hall Appreciation Society have quotes in the Ham and High, and both point out how little we are being told about the proposed disposal of Hornsey Town Hall. Given the position the Town Hall holds in local opinion, we deserve more information.

Crouch End's best hope of democratic representation seems to lie just at present with Catherine West, the MP for Hornsey and Wood Green who has written in a very outspoken manner about how the disposal of the Town hall should proceed - she believes that "it's vital that the local community are at the heart of any restoration"  Trouble is, Catherine West is an MP in Westminster, but this is a local matter. There may be behind the scenes pressure that she can bring to bear, but nothing formal.

Our councillors are hog tied over anything to do with the Town Hall.

Cllr Arthur is a Cabinet Member (for resources and culture) and fully committed to the complex and expensive OJEU process. Regrettable really, because who, if not the man with the words "Arts and Culture" in his job description, and a ward councillor where the Town Hall is situated, should be fighting to keep the Town Hall on its current upward trajectory. On the very contrary, Cllr Arthur is not allowed to meet locals on the subject of HTH without a lawyer present, in case he actually says anything. He spoke openly in the council debate on the side of the OJEU.

Cllr Natan Doron, Lab, Crouch End, is under the party whip, and can do little except relay messages from head office - this for instance:

Question from constituents Has Haringey taken legal advice about Clare [Kober]'s assertion that the OJEU process can be suspended if the bids don't satisfy community aspirations and are they confident that they could weather a legal challenge seeking for redress for money spent on failed bids?

 Answer from faceless bureaucrats: The council has sought legal advice, and we are confident that we are entitled to suspend the procurement process at any time, and address any challenges presented. It may be helpful to note that Cllr Kober’s statement at Full Council was in reference to not achieving a fully acceptable solution. [ . . . .]

Question from constituents : what is Haringey's understanding of the term community aspirations?

 Answer from faceless bureaucrats: As mentioned above, Cllr Kober’s comments were in relation to not achieving a fully acceptable solution, rather than not achieving community aspirations. We’ve worked hard to ensure the current procurement process will result in something that meets the objectives and outcomes set out at the beginning of the process – a sustainable future for the Town Hall, which allows community and cultural activities to take place in the building and makes a positive contribution to the local economy.

So almost a complete retraction of everything we'd understood Haringey to be promising in respect of community access.

Cllr Sarah Elliott, LibDem, Crouch End: is one of the few opposition councillors in Haringey. Hence her almost total lack of clout in any of this. Add to that her membership of the Hornsey Town Hall Creative Trust (HTHCT) and we find her lips sealed anyway.

HTHCT has entered into a pact with the council to be part of the evaluation team. It's a legally binding agreement. Liz Sich says so in "View from the Street" recently (Oct 22nd) in the Ham and High. But she doesn't say what it legally binds them to, nor do we get any clue as to what the "community use" criteria are. In a democratic process, would you not at least run the "community use" criteria past the community you claim to be serving. Perhaps not. We have had an indication that the HTHCT/LBH agreement will be published on HTHCT and LBH websites. But it hasn't happened yet, and when it does there will almost certainly large parts that are exempt*. There has been a newsletter from HTHCT in itself something of a surprise. I can find no record of any newsletters from HTHCT for years, until May this year.

And now we begin to see the complete lack of value in the 30% weighting for the "community use" criteria. Cllr Kober has stepped back from the implication that these criteria  are at all important, it's the overall solution that matters. Picture a scene in which two bidders score:

Bidder A : Community Use 29%  Everything Else 42.9% - Total 71.9%

Bidder B: Community Use 2.9%  Everything Else 69%  - Total 71.9%

Now to my perspective Bidder A has scored 10 times as well on the criteria I care about, and I'd happily settle for that. But perhaps from the council point of view the difference in the scoring on "everything else" is simply the capital receipt.  Bidder A will achieve all the goals of the disposal but hand over no cash to Haringey. I wonder if the HTHCT legal agreement has a tie breaker for such an eventuality. 

*exempt - secret for whatever reason the council chooses to fabricate.

Tags: democratic deficit, hornsey town hall

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"Cllr Natan Doron, Lab, Crouch End, is under the party whip, and can do little except relay messages from head office.."????

Well ahem - this is exactly what is VERY wrong with local politics. The party whip hey? So even for local issues everyone toes the line and bury their head in the sand in case they mess up..

Well in my books politics is about OPINIONS - not toeing the line. 

Show some guts local councillors and speak your mind please!

And before anyone starts - I say this is happening thoughout the political spectrum.. not just Labour.

Should I put myself forward as an independent (no whip) Crouch End councillor?

JC

Sorry, JC, are you not the leader of the Labour party?

Oh no - I have been found out! :-)

Seriously it pains me to see that the whip is more important than having an opinion. Fear of losing one's seat more important than community's interest. 

I once was a member of a party and i NEVER refrained from speaking my mind. And that's the way it should be.

So? who wants to join me on an independent ticket? ;-)

JC

Actually the worst case could be much worse than you describe. Consider these scores:

Bidder A: Community Use 25, Everything else 35 - Total 60

Bidder B: Community Use 0, Everything else 65 - Total 65

So Bidder B wins and converts the Town Hall into flats with no community access whatsoever.

With community access accounting for only 30 marks out of 100, it is quite possible for the winning bidder overall to have the lowest score in this category.  One question to ask is whether a minimum score is required on community access for a bid to be considered valid. 

  

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