26 November 2013

Tis the season of goodwill

A poke in the eye isn't a goodwill gesture
It’s all rather strange.

Let’s compare and contrast a few points.

In High Barnet
•    We are told we have to pay to park without cash meters
•    We are told there is no money for troughs and hanging baskets.
•    We are told the council would have no means of watering them in any case.
•    We are told there is no money for a Christmas tree.

In East Barnet
•    There is a car park where It is free to park
•    There is lovely municipal planting that is regularly refreshed
•    There is a council owned water bowser that visits to keep everything looking tip top
•    There is to be a Christmas tree to be switch on by the Mayor

From what I see in social media and the papers, the Mayor is having a very jolly time turning on the Christmas lights in high streets all over the borough. Whereas here in High Barnet it seems that the council is doing nothing to help Christmas on its way, no lights, no tree, no bonhomie and seasonal cheer. It seems that Christmas is happening everywhere else except High Barnet.

Whilst writing I have just had a customer come in a say that Barnet High Street was the most forlorn and unloved shopping street she had recently been to. To sum up she said there was a “TOTAL ABSENCE OF CIVIC PRIDE”.

For a start we were led to believe that we were getting new Christmas lights for our lampposts – clearly we are so far down the list of the council’s list of Christmas priorities.

So what’s going on?

What’s to be done?

This is not a trivial matter. High Barnet’s commercial offering has suffered so dreadfully as a result of the council’s parking policies and lack of support. It really is time that the council put something back to help the struggling High Street. In retail this period is SO VERY IMPORTANT to us traders – it just seems that High Barnet is losing out.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Kentish
Hon. Treasurer
Barnet Businesses & Traders Association

c/o: Hopscotch Trading Ltd
88 High Street, Barnet, Herts, EN5 5SN
T: (020) 8364 9777

Mr Mustard was somewhat surprised by the tone of the reply from an elected representative especially one charged with responsibility for resident engagement. A good councillor would soak up the criticism, do something about the complaints if he could and write with grace and style. Instead, this poke in the eye arrived.

Dear Michael Kentish,

East Barnet doesn't have a tube station. High Barnet does have a tube station. If you want free parking I can assure you the car parks will be full of commuters. (A one hour restriction would solve that supposed problem)

The High Barnet Town Team agreed to maintain the baskets if the Council bought and installed them, but did not. The HBTT is now defunct.

High Barnet had a publicly funded Christmas Tree in 2011. East Barnet did not.

High Barnet had OLF money in 2011. East Barnet did not.

Several shops had makeovers with that money... and even then Pacino could only be motivated to put up one half of their shutters. Did you email them to complain about their lack of pride?

As 'Barnet Traders' did you constantly write to the previous owner of the market as she ran it into the ground and destroyed footfall?

What about the owners of the former 'Greggs' shop? Have you contacted them about their pride? I did speak with the owners this week and told them it was in a dilapidated state. There are 'legal' issues that need to resolved first, but I have implored them to get on with it.

This year High Barnet had the Freedom Parade by the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment. East Barnet did not. That parade brought a lot of people to the High Street, but that parade could have been done anywhere in the borough.

There is free parking on the High Street. There hasn't been free parking on the High Street for many years.

The local Barnet Resident Association and Barnet Traders (reps' names removed by Mr Mustard) had a recent meeting with Cllr. (Dean) Cohen regarding the parking changes. It was agreed that parking was greatly improved (figures confirm that), but that Moxon Street Car Park needed changes and they will be announced very soon, along with another parking change.

There is free parking after 2.30pm at the north of the High Street. There are no restrictions on Meadway, there are one hour restrictions on the streets west side of Barnet Hill/Wood Street. You frequently complain that this is not close enough for your shop, but if you needed vehicular access then why set up shop on a narrow bend with double yellows on both sides of the street? (it's all you own fault you idiot is how Mr Mustard reads this sentence) 

There is free parking on the weekends up to Christmas in December.

High Barnet has had substantial amount of money put into transforming the Churchyard Gardens; and nearly £20,000 this year on further works. East Barnet hasn't, to my knowledge.

The High Road has been resurfaced. East Barnet's, to my knowledge, has not.

High Barnet has a tremendous Remembrance Parade - over 500 residents involved or watching this year. The best attended in the borough. The High Street was looking excellent. Was your shop open to serve the visitors?

The Council is a major stakeholder in the Chipping Barnet Town Team. The Barnet Traders should have a major part to play as a stakeholder in the Town Team. For reasons I don't understand, the most successful trader in High Barnet was once part of the Barnet Traders, but hasn't been for three years. His presence would surely have a galvanising effect on the Barnet Traders. Why is he not part of Barnet Traders?

If you want the Christmas Tree lights switched on by the Mayor, then you could have requested it through the Mayor's office, or asked a local Councillor for advice on contacting the Mayor. (This one sentence is actually sensible advice) 

The Mayor does open the Barnet Christmas Fayre each year - because the organisers request it.

I believe (redacted) has been in discussion with Council officers and arranged Christmas lights - 'simple design but elegant' her email said.

I will speak with Cllr. Cohen, but money and resources are tight. High Barnet is a large area with a large number of demands. The area does get a reasonable share (a completely unsupported statement, no comparative figures with other town centres, easy to write but hard to prove). One always wants more and that's what I'm constantly trying to deliver.


Cllr. David Longstaff
Cabinet Member for Safety and Resident Engagement

Mr Mustard isn't Richard Cornelius's biggest fan, although enjoys perfectly cordial chats with him and will happily buy him a pint when time allows after a council meeting, but at least Richard's politically tuned brain for self preservation, and that of his team, doesn't let him down. He never writes much but that is a whole lot better than what his cabinet member wrote.

From: Cornelius, Cllr Richard
Sent: 24 November 2013 18:40

To: <mail@hopscotchsweets.co.uk>
Cc: Longstaff, Cllr David;
Cohen, Cllr Dean;
Rams, Cllr Robert;

Subject: RE:

I think David has replied to this email, perhaps more directly than I might have, but correctly.

Yes, we do want to help High Barnet and all the high streets.



Suitable chastened, David Longstaff wrote again. So much better when you write fewer words David, take a tip from the leader, least said, soonest mended.

Dear All,

I have spoken with Cllr. Cohen and he has agreed to look at his budget and see what can be put toward the Christmas Tree.


By this time the High Barnet traders had raised enough money for a Christmas tree but they can put that aside for now and use it on hanging baskets in the spring or other initiatives. The flowers on the crossing near the police station are still looking fab thanks to Hopscotch Sweets (well worth a visit for their huge range and warm welcome).

Merry Christmas to one and all. The council are lucky that we have traders who care and do things collectively to help the High Street survive whilst the council tax it to death with high business rates and a vicious parking ticket enforcement regime.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

No comments:

Post a Comment

I now moderate comments in the light of the Delfi case. Due to the current high incidence of spam I have had to turn word verification on.