Interviews News

Liberal Democrats seek to challenge main parties in Barnet

In the third of five interviews with local party leaders ahead of the election on 5th May, Lib Dem councillor Gabriel Rozenberg talks up environmental issues
By Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Barnet Liberal Democrat campaigners outside Finchley Central Station, in one of their key local areas (credit Barnet Liberal Democrats)
Barnet Liberal Democrat campaigners outside Finchley Central Station, in one of their key local areas (credit Barnet Liberal Democrats)

Barnet’s Liberal Democrats have pledged to be “local champions” and challenge the main parties on key issues affecting residents.

Leader Gabriel Rozenberg admits the group does not expect to win control of the council following the local election on 5th May but says it can still be a voice for residents, particularly on areas he claims have been overlooked by the main parties.

A “strong focus on the environment”, including policies designed to boost walking and cycling, will be among the Liberal Democrats’ top priorities

Although the Lib Dems did not win any seats during the last set of elections in 2018, Cllr Rozenberg defected from the Tories to the Lib Dems in September 2019. He was later joined by Jess Brayne, a former Labour councillor, with Helene Richman joining the Lib Dems from the Conservatives earlier this month.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Rozenberg said he did not think the Conservative administration had “done anything noticeable to improve people’s lives in Barnet”.

The Lib Dem leader claimed the Tory pledge to keep council tax low had not been fulfilled, as it had gone up “considerably” during the past four years.

Cllr Rozenberg described the Liberal Democrats as “the local champions in this election” who would “fight for every vote”.

“Our approach is to say ‘where can we make a difference?’” he explained. “Well let’s get out there, connect with those areas, make sure we really understand and embed ourselves in them, and then perhaps we can really deliver results for residents.”

One of the key areas being targeted by the Lib Dems is Finchley. Cllr Rozenberg claimed neither Labour nor the Tories seemed very “rooted” in Finchley, adding that the area appeared “neglected”, with high streets “ignored”, developments “imposed without resident buy-in” and crime “not being addressed”.

The Liberal Democrats would draw up a “borough-wide strategy to meet the climate emergency”, Cllr Rozenberg said, including pledges to bring back separate food waste collections and kerbside recycling.

They have also pledged to install a “network of segregated cycle lanes across Barnet”, which will begin in Finchley before linking up with other areas.

Reflecting on his decision to join the Lib Dems, Cllr Rozenberg said: “I really did not believe in anything the Conservatives stood for by the time I left, and I did not trust Boris Johnson in any way. I thought he was a charlatan.”

He claimed the Tories were “totally failing” to tackle problems such as poor productivity, unaffordable house prices and rising inflation. Voting Liberal Democrat, Cllr Rozenberg said, would “send a message” to Tories in Westminster and Barnet that voters “are not going to be taken for granted anymore”.

He added: “You will get a local champion in the Liberal Democrats who will stand up for the environment, who will be much more responsive in tackling local crime, in making sure that developments are in tune with local opinion, and who will keep on listening and working for you, year after year.”

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