Cllr Daniel Thomas is the Leader of Barnet Council.
Journalists like to ask how the Prime Minister is affecting conversations on the doorstep. The truth is, I’m hearing more complaints about Sadiq Khan than Boris Johnson. Khan has racked up City Hall council tax by almost nine per cent. The Mayor has made parts of Barnet feel unsafe due to under-policing. Now he wants to clobber outer-London motorists with ULEZ and pay-per-mile. Whether we like it or not, the Mayor is an integral part of local government in London which means his policies and their consequences are fair game in this election.
Sir Keir Starmer launched Labour’s local election campaign in Barnet, but all he could talk about was ‘partygate’, anything but his own party’s atrocious track record in town halls across London. In Barnet, we are surrounded by Labour-run councils, all of which have higher council tax, fewer bin collections, lower educational attainment, and are hell-bent on penalising motorists. The car is essential for outer-London radial travel, yet Labour boroughs are imposing LTNs and raking in fines from confused drivers. Enfield has already raised £4 million which will no doubt be spent on more unused segregated cycle lanes.
Labour-run Harrow reached the shameful milestone of exceeding £2,000 for Band D council tax. Barnet charges almost £300 less. How can Labour councillors and Mayors say they’re concerned about the cost of living whilst taking more money from local taxpayers? I welcomed Government funding for the £150 council tax rebate (on behalf of 80,000 Barnet households); Labour and Lib Dem councillors did so through gritted teeth.
As for levelling up, decades ago we took the brave decision to knock down our worst council estates and start again. New social housing was paid for from the proceeds of new private housing. We even managed to fund new schools and community centres. I knew it was a success when I heard a Labour councillor complain that a regeneration area “would not be deprived for much longer” when we agreed to build new council offices there. The new developments are no longer concentrations of poverty; they are mixed vibrant communities that residents, private and social, are proud of. The difference between our aspiration and Labour’s desire to keep everyone as a client of the state could not be more stark than it is in Barnet.
The most uncertain aspect of this election is the new ward boundaries. My view is that we still have more routes to retain control than Labour, which explains why they’re targeting Conservative strongholds. There are enough seats within the obvious marginal wards for Labour to win control, but they need to win all of them at the same time, something they’ve never achieved. The fact they’re targeting longshots reveals that they’re not confident of their chances in all the marginal wards. This is understandable given that we won a seat from Labour in a by-election last year and one of their wards turned blue at the London Assembly elections.