A Sorry Picture
A story in this week’s Hackney Gazette seems to back up what the IWCA has been saying for some time about the gentrification of Shoreditch. Under the headline “Cool Britannia” brigade driven out by rent hike the Gazette tells us that artists who were encouraged into the area by government cash supposed to secure cheap studio space, are now being forced out of the area by rocketing property rents and service charges. One artist claims that rents are now as much as £320 a week and service charges £700 a quarter.
While we won’t be particularly sad to wave goodbye to some of these over-rated, under-talented media tarts, there is a more serious side to this exodus of goatee beards and berets. As Glasshouse property developers managing director David Nicholson states, “we are not a charity, we are a commercial business and we’ve never lead anyone to believe we were anything else”. Ring any bells ? Just look at the plans Hackney Council have for housing, leisure and learning. Initial cash injections followed by leaving it all to market forces. And why do these companies get involved ? Because they think they can make a profit. Helpfully, David Nicholson tells us “It comes down to market forces which we don’t control”. Perhaps in a couple of years – once more council houses have been dumped into the private sector, rents have started to spiral out of control and all the leisure and learning services have been sold off – we might be told the same thing: “Market forces…blah blah blah…nothing we can do.”
Now more than ever, we need to fight to keep control of affordable housing and basic services, because if the “Cool Britannia” mob can’t afford the rents, Hackney’s working class majority sure as hell won’t either.
As if we didn’t expect it, the ballot at Fellows Court over transfer to Pinnacle has resulted in a yes vote, meaning that 300 flats will now move into the Shoreditch Neighbourhood. As we said at the time, the ballot was a joke from start to finish. Photocopied ballot papers, with no way of being authenticated, were sent out to tenants who were then told to return them to Andrew Wilkes, a man who has a clear interest in getting a yes vote and hiving off estate management into the private sector. Fishy ?
Hackney Council to re-ballot tenants of Fellows Court
Despite having balloted residents of Fellows Court in November of last year, Hackney Council officer Andrew Wilkes has circulated a letter asking residents to vote again on the same issue that the council were defeated on last time, namely whether the estate should be transferred from Kingsland Neighbourhood in to Shoreditch. The council claims that the last vote was not valid as the “results from individual estates could not be distinguished” – a cock up in other words. There has been under two weeks’ notice given to tenants to return their ballot papers and interestingly, they are being sent back to none other than Mr Wilkes himself. Far be it from us to suggest any electoral impropriety, but wouldn’t you be suspicious if the man collecting the votes was the same man pushing for a yes vote ?
Once again, the IWCA would urge a NO vote on this transfer. as we’ve seen with the pathetic failure of IT Net and the difficulties with private contractors trying to cream off a nice profit from the sold off leisure services, once you get transferred and into the grubby hands of a private company, it’s in their interests to make money from you. How ? Well how about upping your rent, refusing to carry out repairs unless you pay and gradually forcing you out to make way for the kind of tenants they really want – yuppies.
Hackney IWCA was pleased to see in the Gazette of 23rd March that residents of Hawksley Court estate had successfully prevented the installation of a mobile phone mast. This is exactly the sort of community-led initiative that the IWCA supports and it is good to see local people standing up against the spread of these masts which are dangerous and unwanted .
When Hackney Council and private companies like Orange treat ordinary working class people with such disdain is it surprising that residents get sick of being treated like second class citizens? From the disasters of IT Net, the lack of consultation over tenants being “decanted” from Florence Court right through to the dubious ballot over Fellows Court’s transfer and now this example of arrogance, it should be clear to us that the council will only sit up and take notice when we take matters into our own hands.
The residents of Hawksley Court have set a good example to the rest of the borough.