Town hall chiefs were accused of deliberately misleading council tenants this week by “manipulating” the result of a ballot on the future of their homes.
Cllr Jamie Carswell, cabinet minister for housing described it as an “unambiguous mandate” for ALMOs following the ballot of 25,000 tenants and 8,000 leaseholders.
The council needs to raise £220 million to bring its crumbling housing stock up to a decent standard and hopes to tap into millions of pounds of government funds for necessary improvements.
But Peter Sutton of political party Hackney Independent says the voting figures are far from a “resounding green light to ALMOs” and has slammed the figures used in the a council press release as “pure propaganda and manipulation”.
“The release says a significant majority of 80 per cent of voters supported ALMOs,” he said.
“Despite two extensions to the deadline and an appeal letter, only 7,000 tenants and leaseholders voted. Of those, 64% put ALMOs as their first choice. To get the 80 per cent figure mentioned in the press release, the council would have had to have included people who put ALMOs as their second, third and fourth choices.
“It means, despite months of one-sided pro-ALMO propaganda, only just over 4,000 tenants and leaseholders could be persuaded to vote for an ALMO – just 14 per cent of the borough’s council tenants and leaseholders”, he added.
However, Cllr Jamie Carswell said he was delighted people had taken the ‘test of opinion’ seriously and voted. “This is the culmination of three years communication around ‘Decent Homes’ and means people have made their feelings very clear that an ALMO is their preferred option”, he added.
Council Chiefs will hope to meet with the Government in January to submit a bid for establishing ALMOs.
Recent figures compiled by National Statistics show that gaps in income and wealth remain large: 17 per cent of the population (2002/03 figure) live in households with income below £194 per week (60 per cent of median disposable income) while half the population own just 5% of the wealth (2001 figure).
Reports of big improvements in Hackney Council services have been hugely exagerated. The Audit Commission say the council is now officially “weak” instead of “poor.” There is only one “poor” council according to this week’s ‘Comprehensive Performance Assessment’ and that is John Prescott’s home council in Hull.
Hackney Independent’s Peter Sutton commented “Those with long memories in Hackney will remember when our council’s slogan was ‘Working for local people.’ They haven’t dared to use that one for a long time. Maybe ‘Better than Hull’ could be the new slogan?”
Peter Sutton also stated that the Audit Commission were not living in the real world. “I challenge them to set foot outside their offices and to show us where these improvements are. Try living on a council estate, attending a Hackney school or relying on Hackney social services before telling us how much things are getting better.”
And things will never get better while we have Labour councillors who put the interests of the new middle class settlers before the needs of the working class majority.
Inside Housing is the weekly magazine for housing workers. Its latest issues includes a 3 page feature on Hackney Council’s “test of opinion” on the Decent Homes Standard, focusing mainly on the Council’s use of Show Flats to convince us that everything will be rosy – if we sign all our rights away so they can privatise our homes. As the article points out, the Show Flats have all sorts of fixtures and fittings in them that we’ll never see in our homes.
A source involved with the initiative confirms in the article that the Council are seriously worried by the campaigns mounted by local people against their propaganda: “Better the devil you know is the phrase that’s repeated again and again. Many residents think Hackney is a bad council, but prefer that to whatever an ALMO would do.”
After all the Council-funded glossy posters and fun days, Barbara Barton (Hackney’s decent homes standard programme manager) has the nerve to have a go at leaflets produced by local people because the information in them “isn’t unbiased”! A career as a New Labour spin-doctor surely awaits you, Barbara.
Hackney Independent is committed to driving New Labour out of working class areas in Hackney, and to exposing their lies. In the article Hackney Independent member Peter Sutton is quoted as saying:
“The vote is a charade. They intend to bring in an ALMO – it doesn’t matter what people say. I think it’s misleading – they say the ALMO will bring extra money but it’s unlikely. The ALMO will cost £3 Million to £4 Million to set up, and they’ll only get extra money if they get a two star Audit Commission rating. If they told people that, I don’t think people would vote for it.”
Hackney only managed to get a one star rating in 2002 and the Audit Commission couldn’t say they thought it would get any better in the future – which is no news for those of us who live here.