Former Highgate councillor sets the record straight

Unwilling to engage in debate on the issues, other parties are still doing their best to devote their by-election campaigning to exaggerated personal attacks on myself and the current Conservative candidate Richard Merrin. Richard is big enough to fight h

Unwilling to engage in debate on the issues, other parties are still doing their best to devote their by-election campaigning to exaggerated personal attacks on myself and the current Conservative candidate Richard Merrin. Richard is big enough to fight his own battles, but perhaps I should put the record straight.

During my early days on the council I was probably as active as many other new councillors, helping to vote down unsightly development on the Holly Lodge Estate, speaking against the enlargement of the bus stand at Highgate Village, pushing for a review of traffic calming measures, as well as dealing with the usual flow of parking and rehousing queries.

It should also be borne in mind that as the only councillor for my party in my ward I would have had to have taken on three times the volume of casework and community meetings as most other councillors. It is no secret that during 2007 my commitment tailed off dramatically, especially after the financial hurricane which broke last summer - I work as a banker - which not only drastically reduced the amount of time which I had for council work, but which also made it almost impossible for me to attend early evening meetings.

It had become clear that I did not have the time to do the job any kind of justice and would have to stand down as soon as a suitable opportunity arose - although by the end of my time on the council I was acting chair of the audit committee. Of course it is a matter of regret that I was unable to do more.


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Some of these stories now seem to have "grown in the telling". For example, in a recent letter a Green Party activist - one Edward Milford, who appears to be based in Haverstock, where he came bottom of the poll two years ago - claimed that I was "asked to stand down" as a school governor. That is untrue, although it is true that my difficulty in attending meetings had started to become an issue - that is why I resigned from that job last summer, although shortly before doing so I was still providing advice to the school finance committee.

I am not going to pretend that I was ever the most active member of the council - but then one can certainly think of one or two members of the Labour and LibDem groups who do not appear to be particularly active either. One senior member of the Labour group resigned (to accept a highly-paid job) soon after the 2006 elections, while after the 2002 elections a LibDem member resigned immediately after being elected, in both cases dragging the voters out to wholly unnecessary by-elections. No party is whiter than white on this score.

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Politics is a rough trade, but the public should be aware of the game that is being played here. The public deserve a proper debate about where the parties stand on the issues - crime, housing, development, council tax etc - not personal finger-pointing.

Richard Merrin has an excellent track record of campaigning in Highgate. I have no doubt that he will do an excellent job, and I look forward to seeing him elected.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Barton

former councillor, Highgate Ward

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