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COMMENT: Idea of ‘rich west and deprived east’ in Haringey is dangerous myth

Sue Hessel Sue Hessel

Sunday, March 9, 2014
7:00 AM

Sue Hessel, chairman of the Haslemere Road Residents’ Association, makes a case for dividing the borough in two.

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‘Haringey is a borough which can so easily be divided down the middle,” wrote Flora Drury in last week’s Ham&High Broadway. If only!

For there is a line, but it is not in the middle. The west is a third, not a half of the borough and for more than 40 years this has been a fundamental structural problem for our democracy.

In 1965, the boroughs of Hornsey, Wood Green and Tottenham were glued together for all the wrong reasons – party political and financial, not community. In one fell swoop, the west was disenfranchised: whatever our electorate voted, the power would lie with the party chosen by Wood Green and Tottenham. The west may well pay the higher proportion of Haringey council taxes, but it has no political power over how it is spent!

Haringey has consequently lacked the democratic checks and balances to work well. Forty years of same party rule is good for no one. Politicians need to be kept on their toes – they need to know that if their administration does not work, they will be overthrown.

I was not at all surprised to see that even long-standing and dedicated councillors such as Dave Winskill have finally thrown in the towel, alongside two-thirds of his “worn out” fellow opposition councillors. Why would anyone want to be an opposition councillor – for ever?

Like many well-intentioned souls before me, I have sat on local Haringey partnership boards for years, attended more meetings and filled in more consultation questionnaires than I ever want to remember, but it is bad for the spirit to constantly feel ignored.

Haringey Council is a chronically dysfunctional organisation. What Ms Drury calls “the rich west and the deprived east”, this lumping together of our communities, illustrates a dangerous political myth that there are no people in need in the west.

It has been perpetuated over the years to justify closing many Crouch End treasures – the thriving cottage hospital, the nurses’ home, pensioner luncheon clubs, our Citizens Advice Bureau, Red Gables family centre. Haringey Council doesn’t even put flower baskets up here anymore.

Even our now derelict town hall and car park, right in the heart of Crouch End, was closed – 26 years ago and counting. If Haringey had supported our community’s plans back in 2005, it would be buzzing now. The success that we see in Crouch End, its shops and cafés and now its planned cinemas, is down to the enterprise of its people, often with young families, who actually are not rich at all.

Perhaps it’s time to draw a new line. Let Tottenham run Tottenham and let the west run the west. It would be better for everyone.

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