Councillor column: a beacon of what is possible

West Finchley councillor Danny Rich on campaigning for social justice and working with the ward’s diverse community

Danny Rich, a Labour councillor in the London Borough of Barnet
Cllr Danny Rich – Labour, West Finchley

I have been active in social justice campaigns for nearly all of my life including giving evidence to a Parliamentary Committee in support of Equal Marriage and, with the current Bishop of Durham, being the first co-chair of the UK Welcomes Refugees Board in response to the Syrian civil war.

Having spent some 35 years as a rabbi I have had to be cautious about anything party political because religious communities are made up of congregants with a diverse range of political views. Although many years ago I had stood as a Labour Party candidate in the Borough of Elmbridge in Surrey, a dozen years ago I moved across town to Barnet with no political ambitions.

I was, however, invited to be an independent member of the Barnet Labour Party Housing Commission where I met a number of then Labour Councillors and others who were passionate about improving housing and other services for residents. When asked to consider
joining them, how could I refuse?

Part of my professional duties involved work with two synagogues in the West Finchley ward, and the retirement of a long-standing diligent councillor created an opportunity for which I was privileged to be selected.

West Finchley is small in population (some 20,000) but large in facilities. The West Finchley ward contains two tube stations (West Finchley and Finchley Central), two shopping high streets (North Finchley and Finchley Central) and the Arts Depot.

With the exception of Victoria Park, West Finchley is not well served with green spaces although I am delighted to serve as a trustee of the Finchley Way Open Space, a charitable community/volunteer-led project.

Perhaps the most delightful aspect of West Finchley is its population. West Finchley is a diverse community with a substantial number of residents of Indian and of Japanese origin. 10% of residents identify as Muslim, 9% as Jewish and 8% as Hindu, and it is not surprisingly that West Finchley is the home to a number of religious buildings including the Finchley Mosque, the Woodside Park (Orthodox) Chabad Centre, both a Liberal and a Reform Synagogue, and its share of churches.

West Finchley residents have a right to expect clean streets, rubbish collected predictably, and to walk on pavements without trip hazards. These basic services can be enhanced by a listening and responsive council which takes care of the everyday but thinks and consults widely about major projects including the regeneration of North Finchley so it can offer the best cultural, leisure, social, shopping and living experiences for local residents and visitors alike.

I seek, as an elected councillor for West Finchley to play my small part in seeing that West Finchley builds on its success, overcomes its challenges, and serves as a beacon of what is possible when residents and the council are at one.

Danny Rich is one of three councillors representing West Finchley ward, along with Ross Houston and Kath McGuirk (also Labour).

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