Spring has sprung with all its glorious unpredictability this year. It’s a great time of year, when our streets and our beautiful open spaces seem to wake up and burst back to life. There are so many of my favourite places in Muswell Hill and Highgate – full of childhood memories. They all come flooding back in the spring.
As winter ends, we are able to lift our heads and greet each other rather than dash along, heads down to avoid the rain. Unless, of course, it is the wettest April in living memory!
Whatever the weather, April and May is election season for politicians. After two years in government, my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I are well into our roles as ministers. After almost a century out of (peacetime) government at Westminster we are able to put Liberal Democrat policies and values into practice. Of course there are frustrations – we have fewer than one in ten of the seats in Parliament and so we cannot always get our own way. But real advances – like the Pupil Premium and reducing taxes for everyone by raising thresholds – have happened because there are Liberal Democrats in government.
Another change that has made fewer national headlines is the localism agenda. This aims to give people a real say over how their communities are run. Community activists in Highgate have seized the opportunity to set up Highgate Neighbourhood Forum. The forum aims to bring together people from parts of the community that cross local council boundaries. It will help to bring local government even closer to the people it serves. The legislation also allows communities to nominate community assets. Once agreed those buildings or spaces will qualify for safeguards against development. Liberal Democrats in Haringey are leading the way in seeking views from local people about what those assets should be.
Ask most Liberal Democrats, though, and they will tell you that elections are still a hot favourite in their calendar. There is nothing so important as talking to people on the doorsteps about the issues that affect them in their daily lives.
One issue that is really grating with people locally is the introduction of fortnightly bin collections by Haringey Council. Liberal Democrat councillors have objected to the plans. We believe that Haringey Council should have consulted properly with residents before making the changes. They should have paid more attention to concerns about lack of space, smells, overflowing rubbish and worse. Each day I receive more reports of problems with the roll-out of the new system.
Another issue that has been a real worry for many local parents is the allocation of school places. Last month we had the good news that the coalition is adjusting the funding it gives to Haringey schools to make it fairer. The coalition has also announced it is providing extra funds to help with school capacity – new money that can be spent on creating space for more pupils. That money must be spent where it is needed most. Together with my colleagues on the council, I will be pressing to make sure those funds are spent fairly across the borough.
Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey & Wood Green
Tel: 020 8340 5459
She blogs at www.LynneFeatherstone.org and is on Twitter at twitter.com/LFeatherstone
Email: [email protected] or write to me at House of Commons, London SW1A