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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

The residents of this Borough have been paying dearly for the Council’s decisions to pour £300,000 into aid for a failed chicken restaurant, £70,000 for a new Council logo, £406,000 for a failed lettings agency and heaven knows how much in consultancy fees for the (apparently) now-to-be-abandoned HDV.


We will pay even more dearly if £33 million is shelled out for a new Council headquarters.


What we see is:

  • Lamentable failure by the council to repair its own properties. One flat on Harringay Passage, for example, has had a broken water pipe since last September. It makes a sound as if someone has just flushed the toilet next to a megaphone.
  • Failure to enforce the law against private landlords. I’ve been inside properties where the conditions are often unhealthy and sometimes disgusting.
  • Cuts to the care of persons with dementia – the closing of The Grange leaving no specialist care in the East of the Borough.
  • Closure of the Osborne Grove nursing home.
  • Starving youth centres, like Bruce Grove, of funding while committing 42% of the “Early Help” budget to a planned single centre. How sensible is that when so many are sensibly frightened to travel through certain post codes?

And I haven’t even mentioned potholes.


There have been some successful pilot projects, but we have no idea as to whether they are being followed up.

  • One small change in the letter to Council Tax defaulters brought in £100,000 more than came in from a control group which received the older-style letter. If rolled out, that could have brought in a further £300,000. Has anything been done about that?
  • The Time to Talk programme at the Park View School providing mentoring and other services, has been highly commended. What’s to happen to that?


The Labour Party’s manifesto makes depressing reading.

  • It promises 1,000 new council homes. Can you believe them? They’ve delivered only a fraction of the 250 they promised last time. And they had to hand to the government £29 million from council homes sales because they failed to use them on new council homes.
  • They use affordable housing statistics misleadingly. In fact, developers have been required by the planning service and committee to make only 32 % of their conventional housing “affordable housing” and “affordable” has been defined as 80% of market rents, which prices out nurses and teachers.
  • It’s full of vague phrases like “we will review” (adult social care), “our preference is” (a fully council owned housing company) “press,” (developers to make housing available to Haringey residents) “develop a strategy” (to combat youth and gang violence). That’s the language of opposition. From a party that has governed for 46 years, it’s nothing short of pathetic.
  • It doesn’t even mention dementia.
  • It talks vaguely of establishing a “Fairness Commission” to sound out local people, but it says little about what it will do and nothing about how they’ll pay for it – a relevant question when, despite their best intentions, they were unable to save the Haringey Race and Equality Council on which I served with various Labour Councillors.
  • They make funding proposals that they have no legal power to implement. If they want to raise the tax by more than 3 % (excluding the additional 3% social care precept) they can’t do it without a referendum. They promise to make the distribution of taxes fairer, but they don’t mention that a council can only set Band D. All of the other bands are set automatically by a formula which is set by central government. But then that’s only been the law since 1992.


We are a great deal clearer and far more practical in what we propose. Full details are in our manifesto which you can see on www.haringeylibdems.org


As a sample, here are some points:


  • We will establish a 100 per cent council-owned housing company and we will invest in it an initial £148 million. £62 million will come from money given by the GLA for the local housing zone to build new homes. £30 million will come from headroom in the council’s housing revenue account. The council has £22.8 million in right-to-buy receipts which it hasn’t yet forfeited. The remainder will come from scrapping the council’s plans to spend £33 million on new council offices.
  • While Labour doesn’t mention that wonderful organisation StArt by name, we do, and we will do whatever we can to support it. StArt, which is working for truly affordable housing and other amenities on the St. Ann’s hospital site, has finally persuaded public bodies that publicly owned land is not a commodity, that it has to be developed to benefit the community and that affordable housing shouldn’t price out nurses and teachers.
  • We will employ 2 Admiral Nurses for demetia patients and we will open a hub for them to work in the East of the Borough in collaboration with the Haynes centre in the West. Not only is this more humane; it will save money on the “care packages” which are required to fund patients’ care. We will reopen Osborne Grove.
  • We will ensure that there are two members of staff in every school who are qualified in mental health first-aid.
  • And we will press for more mental health beds on the St. Ann’s site. And the reason why “we will press” is not an empty phrase from us is that our health spokesperson is Cllr Pippa Connor, who worked as a specialist cancer nurse for many years and whose considerably powers of advocacy will ensure that the case is made powerfully.
  • We will slash the communications and PR budget. We all also reduce the number of senior staff and share a chief executive with a neighbouring borough. And we will scrap the building of new council offices and save the £33 million.


There are many other reasons to vote for us, but perhaps the strongest is that local Lib Dem Councillors always strive to make the Council a means for solving problems instead of being a problem itself. Harringayonline has plenty of comments on how Karen and I were helpful in the past. Matt Cuthbert will be a very effective member of our team.


Labour has run out of ideas. We’re brimming with them. Please let us get to work.


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Hi. I have a couple of questions on this (from a floating voter with no particular axes to grind):

The mention of sharing a chief exec seems a bit thrown in as an afterthought in this statement but surely that’s huge! Which neighbouring borough? Would this be part of a wider borough shared service as with the original ‘tri-borough’ arrangement of Westminster, k&c & h&f (which was supposed to include a chief-exec sharing arrangement but which ultimately has been disbanded).  As soon as H&F went labour leaving the other two Tory the writing was on the wall for that agreement.  Are you proposing an agreement with only lib-dem led councils? How do you guard against politics derailing it as with the wcc/k&c/h&f deal?  I’m genuinely interested to know more about what is being proposed here. 

Secondly, I don’t know much about the proposed new council HQ other than that it is supposed to bring together staff in one location, enabling the release of many smaller remote offices scattered throughout the borough. I presumed (?) that the business case for this was based on a cost saving. What evidence is there that the £33m will not bring a saving through the release of other properties. 


If I may say so, these are excellent points. I’ll give a brief answer now and a longer one later.

Firstly, the sharing of a chief executive is something we’ve been working on for some time and indeed it formed one of our proposed amendments to the budget in February, where we identified a saving of £150,000. The significance of this is that opposition amendments are subject to the same scrutiny by council officers as is the budget itself.

We identified this saving as a means of paying for 3 Admiral nurses. Unfortunately Labour rejected these proposals.

We would never insist on sharing with another Lib Dem council. Chief Executives are supposed to be neutral and political control changes over time. Indeed to share with a council that has a different political complexion would reinforce neutrality.

More later and thanks again.


Anne-Marie. Can I suggest you make Freedom of Information Act inquiries about the proposed new Council HQ. If you use the free website What Do They Know anyone will be able to read and be informed by the answers.

I've tended to assume that the new Council HQ was simply one more illustration of many accurate predictions of C.Northcote Parkinson. (Famed author of Parkinson's Law). Declining organisations, he observed, tend to develop grandiose plans for new shinier HQ buildings.

I’m with you on the shared Chief Executive role.  

Where it has been tried it has been vulnerable to political change and the only real successes seem to have been in very small authorities (Chorley tried it with a neighbour and dropped the idea even before they appointed someone to the post). Camden and Islington had a go but it fell at the first hurdle because an MP in one of the authorities reportedly didn’t get on with then Chief Executive of the other one.

As a member of the electorate the proposal makes me uncomfortable as one of the roles of a Chief Executive is to work with the elected administration to bring about their policy priorities (as voted by those in living in the local authority). Exactly who would a joint Chief Executive be working for, and how would conflicts between policy priorities in two or more authorities be handled?  Would the elected members of both authorities need to agree joint polices and if they did wouldn’t this water down any remaining local democracy and accountability?  What if they didn’t agree and who would take the fall if political complexions changed?

As far as I can see it’s saved a bit of money for a short period where it’s been tried but it’s a risky a drop in the ocean compared to the around half a billion spent by each London local authority every year.  However I’ve seen nothing to show how it’s benefited local people in anyway so it would be useful to point out any successes.

Thank you as well, Michael, for your observations. If I may make another provisional response, I'd add the following. The idea of sharing management in local government has been promoted by the Local Government Association. You can see their report at  https://www.local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/stronger-tog...

They observe that it is necessary to be above-board all the way through, lest the process excite suspicion. They also point to the necessity of establishing red lines as to what is and is not to be permitted. They also observe that on the occasions when an arrangement breaks down, it is "too easy" to blame politics, and that a lack of commitment to the process is normally to blame.

Turning to some of your specific points, it is of course correct that a chief executive is obliged to work with the elected administration to bring about its policy priorities. For myself, however, I cannot see why a chief executive would have any conflict of loyalties if, say, he or she were working for two authorities with different political priorities and leanings. Each council has authority within its own area, and not within the area of the authority with which it shares a chief executive. There is no reason why a chief executive cannot loyally apply Lib Dem policies within the area of Council A, and at the same time loyally apply Labour policies in the area of Council B. Civil Servants deliver different policies for different parties, the moment there is a change of government. There doesn't appear to be any reason why the same official can pursue different objectives simlutaneously for different geographical areas.

Although in the grand scheme of things, £150,000 a year may not seem like a lot, I think that it is important to save this kind of money when the resources of the Borough are so stretched and the needs of the Borough are so great. After all, it could have paid for three Admiral Nurses, which is no small benefit.

I'll add some more to this, once I've had a chance to speak to the people who dealt with the amendment at the budget meeting.

For now, though, I think I've demonstrated that this is a respectable proposal to which some care has been given.



Thanks for the link to the LGA paper.  If you look at the detail these are mainly lower tier authorities or small authorities that don’t have the range of duties and responsibilities that urban local authorities have.  

The main thrust of the argument in favour of shared management though seems to be around the provision of shared services.  This already happens in a number of London boroughs where they have agreed to shared things like IT (I think that Haringey already has a partnering agreement with at least one other borough) or employee pensions (Camden share a pensions service with Wandsworth for instance) and procurement.  In other words completely practical services with no shared senior management except in those very specific services.  I have no issues at all with this and it can be a good way to save money through scale.

The shared management service that was often cited as a success (Westminster/Kensington and Chelsea /Hammersmith and Fulham) was possible when these three councils were closely politically aligned and fell apart when that ceased to be the case.  Other authorities that gone down this road have seen a high turn over of senior management, including one that went through 3 interim Chief Executives in one year.

it is a fallacy to think that a Chief Executive in an urban authority is politically neutral.  They deliver the political priorities of the administration and work with the Leader of an authority on a daily basis to plan, implement and monitor progress.  The potential for conflict of interest across borough boundaries is real and was seen in the tensions between Camden and Islington in what they each individually wanted from the Kings Cross development.

What I object to is not the idea being part of the Lib/Dem manifesto, but that it is stated as something that will happen.  For something with the potential to bring about radical changes in the way the borough I live in is managed I would want to see a commitment to this being properly investigated and then put to the electorate in a referendum for them to decide.

Another issue to note, shared management has also been to precursor to merged councils (this is currently happening in East Suffolk)   Again this isn’t something I object to in principle but people need to understand the potential for this when considering whether shared management is a first step.

Sorry to labour this but it’s worth noting that the LGA paper's sponsor is the Leader of a local authority that has gone into a sharing arrangement so would have a positive view of it.  The only independent research I know into the actual benefits was carried out by the University of Oxford last year. It concludes - 

From this methodology, our results are unambiguous: in the aggregate, SSCs have not yet delivered the financial performance promised in the reform literature, either for local government as a whole, or for individual categories of local authority. Given the current enthusiasm for shared back-office administration in public sectors around this world, these findings have significant practical implications. At best, they suggest that the growing number of case studies and audits reporting negative outcomes should not be dismissed as isolated or extreme examples; rather, a more systematic problem may be occurring, which needs to be addressed. At worst, the results indicate the need for a more fundamental rethink about the benefits of inter-organizational collaboration in administrative services, given that critical assumptions appear to be faulty.

Thanks for coming on to outline the LD's policy platform.

Any firm commitments on what you'll do, or not do, about charging for garden waste and bulky items collections, David?

Thanks, Hugh. I can answer that one immediately.

We are pledged to scrap the green waste charges and to reinstate the hessian sacks which residents favour (page 31 of our manifesto).

In the last council budget meeting, our councillors proposed an amendment which would have effected this and which would also have reintroduced weekly general waste collections in streets which had been identified by the council's scrutiny committee as needing these.

It would have been paid for by capping the £2.4 million communications budget at £1.5 million (remember no budget amendments are allowed to be put forward unless council officers are persuaded that the figures add up).

This amendment, too, was voted down by Labour.

Labour's view must have been that residents would prefer reading Haringey People to having their green waste removed without charge.

They must also have believed that people wanted to increase their collections of bins rather than their bin collections.

It takes all sorts, I suppose.


Thanks, David. 

I have to say that agree with you that I wouldn’t prioritise PR over essential services. 

David the so-called communications budget needs a lot more than capping. It needs drastic reform and to go back to first principles.

Giving "information" is vital. But an endless stream of one-sided feel-good propaganda rots democracy. It also risks cancelling out the positive and helpful things that our council tries to publicise. Not least because pumping out a stream of half truths eventually leads to nobody believing a word you say.

The Council Comms team is not there to sell the Majority Party to the public. Nor to sell the services of a few favoured businesses. When there are contentious issues with differing viewpoints the Comms team should be free to offer a balanced factual account. Not, for example, to tell residents that the Council's policy is true and other interpretations "myths" which require "busting". Leave the propaganda messaging to political parties.They should pay for it with their own money - not the Council Tax.

There is actually a sensible model to work from. It's called The Code of Practice for Local Authority Publicity.

I'd hope David, that Post-Kober, all the parties would be keen to meet up and set the process in train for a fairer and more transparent system.



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