Updated Thursday - see below:
Let's get the difficult part over with first.
Brian Coleman was right.
There. Said it.
Ok, 99% of the time he is wrong: spectacularly wrong, but this time ... he was spot on.
In fact, he was not just right, he was even more right than he realised.
Councillor Dean Cohen is a member for Golders Green ward. His father Melvin is not only a fellow councillor in the same ward, but currently the Mayor of Barnet - and the other ward representative is Reuben Thompstone, the man who has just cut the funding for after school schemes at Mapledown school for disabled children, and told their parents to think more creatively about raising the money the Tories have cut in order to pull off a pre-election tax stunt.
Dean Cohen inherited the role of Cabinet member for Environment from Coleman, after the latter's fall from grace - and Brian has never forgiven the more junior councillor for usurping his post.
In January, Coleman accused Dean Cohen of spending a disproportionate amount of the Highways budget funds on his own ward.
In an article in the local Times he claimed that:
Councillor Dean Cohen, the Conservative cabinet member for environment,
allocated £800,000 of the authority’s £7million annual budget for
2013/14 to his own ward of Golders Green – more than any of the other 20
Mrs Angry was intrigued by this suggestion. Certainly there had been reports of a lot of activity in Golders Green in recent weeks, nice new pavements, and lovely new trees springing up: look - here is one planted by Councillor Dean Cohen himself ... (this is part of a 'priority fund' which was rolled out in Brent Street, East Barnet Road, as well as Golders Green Road. All Tory wards, as it happens).
Cabinet member for environment, Dean Cohen, improving the environment of Golders Green with a lovely tree a few weeks ago ...
But £800,000 on highways funding for Golders Green?
Mrs Angry decided to ask about this budget spend at the last meeting of the Finchley and Golders Green Residents Forum.
But, oh dear: the question was not answered, and no one would say why not.
How very odd.
Mrs Angry turned to Councillor Dean Cohen, and asked him what the figures were. He rather tersely replied that he did not know. He claimed the money was allocated according to 'need'.
Ah. According to need.
Mrs Angry was pretty Angry that her question had been ignored: in fact filibustered to the end of a two hour meeting and silenced. But she was laughing up her blogger's sleeve, at the same time, as she had already submitted a Freedom of Information request for the same information. The spreadsheet data at the top is the response.
Strangely, the council claim they do not hold figures for the previous years.
(If Mrs Angry were a cynical, untrusting sort of citizen journalist - yes, the worst kind, of course - she might suspect this is because more data would make the accusation of disproportionate funding even stronger).
In fact, Brian, you were not quite up to speed with Councillor Cohen's spending list.
It was not £800,000 spent on Golders Green this year, in the run up to the elections.
Or perhaps it was then, in which case there has been a bit of a splurge in the last few weeks, because the FOI response has a different figure:
It was £1,055,983.
Last year, Golders Green ward had already been given a generous amount of funding: again the highest level of allocation, £563,542, 66. A total handout, therefore, in two years, of more than £1,600, 000.
Just to put that into perspective, the Labour stronghold ward of East Finchley, represented by members including the Labour leader Alison Moore, received only £157,638 this year, and £164,442,72 the previous year. East Finchley, incidentally, includes the Strawberry Vale estate, the worst area of social deprivation in the borough.
And Colindale, one of the least advantaged areas of the borough, with areas within the UK's top ten percent of social deprivation, as measured in 2012, in terms of income - and of course another Labour ward, received ... nothing.
Nothing. Not a fucking penny.
And the year before it had received a paltry £92, 936.25.
Mrs Angry had to query this amount, as she thought there had been an omission, but apparently not, as confirmed twice by officers dealing with the FOI response. Let's look at a graph representing the last two year's budget spending, ward by ward, kindly created by fellow blogger Mr Reasonable, who has some grasp of statistics, and is quite good at adding up, unlike Mrs Angry.
Well: how very interesting. The top four lucky recipients - by coincidence all Conservative wards - were given more than a million pounds over a two year period: and Golders Green is way ahead of the others, with £1.6 million.
Of course there may be a reason for this need of such high expenditure.
And so Mrs Angry has written to Councillor Cohen to hear his reasoning behind the wildly varying range of budget allocation.
No response as yet.
We await with interest the explanation for the second highest level of funding going to Hale ward, the Tory ward currently blessed with the representation of Councillors Hugh Rayner, Brian Gordon, and ... Tom Davey.
Hale is number 17 out of 21 wards in terms of size, according to the council's own ward profile data, compiled in 2012 - and only number six on the list of most populous wards. It is largely a quiet, affluent residential, middle class area, unlike some of the wards with much lower levels of funding, such as Childs Hill, a Libdem ward, or traditional Labour areas like West Hendon.
Childs Hill, West Hendon, Colindale, East Finchley: these are all wards with areas of high social deprivation - but apparently not worthy of high levels of highways funding. Of course by Barnet Tory reasoning, the feckless poor should not be driving cars they cannot afford, nor expect their pavements to be maintained to the standard of the millionaire residents of Hampstead Garden Suburb, or Totteridge.
Hale, of course, is a marginal ward, and very likely to fall to Labour in next month's elections. This is clearly a coincidental factor, and should not be interpreted as in any way influencing the provision of funding.
But here is another graph, this time courtesy of Mr Mustard, before he was famous - showing the allocation of funding in the last year, and just before the elections:
Interesting to see, is it not, the pattern of blue and red, and all the red drifting towards the bottom of the pile? Burnt Oak is the only Labour ward getting a decent hand out this year - oh, and West Finchley ... guess who lives there? That troublemaker, Mrs Angry. And another troublemaker and, until May 2012, the former Environment Cabinet member.
And yet Mrs Angry's ward is still waiting for the life saving safety measures in the Squires Lane area, funding promised last summer, and delayed yet again until after the election. The crash barrier meant to protect primary and nursery school children at Manorside, destroyed in October, in yet another serious accident while we wait for the safety measures, is still missing, after several requests and promises made. What price is the life of a child, in West Finchley?
One wonders how many other wards have had projects agreed and yet not implemented.
As for Colindale, with £92,000 last year, and seemingly nothing this year - and if this is a mistake, it is one verified by the FOI officers - Mrs Angry understands from local Labour councillors that they have been desperately trying to find out what has been happening to promised repairs and other much needed measures.
It is alleged that all sorts of excuses have been given for the many delays in the installation of a much needed crossing in Aerodrome Road, for example: change of contractors, problems with S106 funding: although these were resolved and the implementation promised for April, councillors have now been told it will be after the election, in June.
Similarly it is claimed that a crossing in Colindeep Lane was delayed by TFL, funding, electrical problems. And residents nearby have complained about pavements, but nothing has been done. No money in the kitty, then? Why? Has it all gone to Golders Green, and Hale, and Finchley Church End?
When Coleman made his accusations about the disproportionate funding, it was revealed that a new system of funding allocation had been introduced by the new Tory Cabinet member:
Councillor Cohen, who was appointed in May 2012, scrapped the previous
policy of equal allocation to wards in favour of a new system, under
which highways officers identify areas of greatest need.
Cohen explained the apparent disparity in funding levels, claiming that:
... the additional cash handed to Golders Green makes up for a “lack of investment in previous years.
He defended the new way of doing things:
It is based on need. We have a list of roads that are a high priority and that is constantly reviewed.
It comes to me and I make suggestions and take things out but it is always based on the need of an area.
I live in my ward so I am able to identify problems but if the need
is in Golders Green then I’m not going to spend money in other areas
just because they are not my ward.
So there you have it. Golders Green is in desperate need of highways funding, as are three other affluent Tory wards, and Colindale, and East Finchley are already adequately funded.
Convinced? Or are you worried about the lack of safeguards to protect this vital funding from the risk of political intervention and inequality in provision throughout the borough?
But then inequality and political intrigue is only what we expect, in our borough. This is Broken Barnet: If it ain't broke, we fix it - in a Tory ward, anyway: and if you are foolish enough to live amongst the less advantaged residents, then that's your hard luck.
If you don't like it, you know what you can do - and yes, there is something you can do, next month, on May 22nd: vote for a fairer representation of the real needs of the people who live here, and change this administration of fools to one where fairness, equality, transparency and accountability mean something more than the empty promises of this shabby Tory council. Mrs Angry
Mrs Angry is still waiting for a reply from Councillor Dean Cohen in regard to questions about this matter put to him in an email on Sunday.
Dear Councillor Cohen
You may recall that at the last meeting of the Finchley and Golders
Green Residents Forum, I had submitted a question about the allocation
of spending in regard to the Highways Budget.
With no real explanation, my question was ignored - I asked you about
the matter, and you said you did not remember the figures and claimed
the allocation was 'according to need'.
I also submitted a Freedom of Information request for the data which was
refused at the Forum, and I have now received the response to this. I
can see now why there was such a reluctance to release the information
In the last year alone, more than a million pounds has been given to
your own ward of Golders Green, in addition to the previous year's
allocation of more than half a million pounds: a total of over £1,
Such a total by far exceeds any funding given to any other ward. In fact
no ward in the borough has received anywhere near such a level of
allocation in either year, and in the current year and in a period
approaching an election, such a large amount of funding
could reasonably be argued to be totally disproportionate.
In fact the range of allocation would seem to be disproportionate.
I should like to ask you why it is, for example, that Colindale has
received only £92,000 in funding in the previous year, and apparently
not one single penny this year?
Is there not a risk of a perception of bias in that the wards which
gained the most funding are Conservative held wards - the top four all
receiving funds over a million pounds in two years?
I queried the amount allocated to Colindale with officers because I
simply did not believe it could be accurate, but am assured that it is.
Were there really no Highways related problems in Colindale which
required attention in the last year?
Do you think it is fair that in two years, £1.5 million should be spent
on your own ward, whilst only £92,000 was given to another ward, in a
less advantaged area of the borough?
Is the allocation of funding in compliance with the Localism Act and its
requirement for local government to follow the Nolan principles in
public life, in particular, in this case, the need for 'objectivity' in
carrying out public business?
The system of deciding Highways funding was changed by you from an equal
allocation process to one by which needs of wards were allegedly to be
assessed on a case by case basis. Please explain what safeguards there
are to ensure no political influences can
be brought to bear on such considerations.
I should be interested to hear your views and look forward to an early response.
No response at all: so a reminder has now been sent asking again for a reply. Mrs
Mrs Angry has now heard from Councillor Cohen, who has promised her a response. While she waits with great excitement for his considered reply, the Barnet Press has a very interesting article about the funding here
As you will see, Labour Councillors Gill Sargeant from Colindale ward, and Arjun Mittra from East Finchley, are pretty furious about the clear disparity in allocation of funding, and the excuses given for failing to address problems in their areas when £1.5 million has been spent on Councillor Cohen's own ward.
In a frankly ludicrous statement, Dean Cohen now claims that the disproportionate spending in Golders Green is because there is a long road that runs through it.
Can't even be bothered to comment on that one - make up your own response, and send it to Councillor Cohen, complete with descriptions of long roads in your own neighbourhood that have not had a million pound makeover ...
This story has a long way to go yet, I think, don't you?
Councillor Cohen has now replied: Mrs Angry takes no responsibility for his grammatical errors, but do read on:
Dear ms musgrove
As you know a large element of this budget went through the relevant
area environment committees and it is there decision not mine.
Where the decision was mine the list was produced by officers on the following criteria set by myself;
Side roads where people live
Roads which have had complaints from residents
Roads which have had concerns raised by members
Roads where money was continuously being spent on re-active maintenance
With regards to colindale, there is huge amounts of development going on
there and as a result much improved infrastructure in the highways
which wouldn't come out of this budget.
However if colindale ward members or any other ward were concerned about
specific roads they had the opportunity at the relevant area
environment committee, whether they did I am not the right person to
I stand by my decision to split the money across the whole borough based
on need of the footway\carriageway and not evenly across
As you will note, Dean Cohen has not responded to the questions about the need to observe the principle of objectivity in the allocation of public funds, nor the safeguarding of the budget allocation from the risk of political influence.
This matter has raised very serious issues of transparency and accountability: most importantly there are urgent questions still to be answered about the gross disparity and inequality in levels of funding given to wards around the borough.