An edited version of this statement by Hackney Independent member Peter Sutton appeared in the Hackney Gazette on 25th May 2006:
How did we get almost exactly the same council following the elections?
We started with 44 Labour councillors, 9 Tories in Lordship, New River and Springfield, 3 Lib Dems in Cazenove and Andrew Boff representing theTories in Queensbridge. We ended up with 44 Labour councillors, the Tories and Lib Dems holding their wards in Stamford Hill and the Greens taking one seat in Clissold.
What is clear to us is that Labour put no real effort into the 4 wards in Stamford Hill that are still represented by the 9 Tory and 3 Lib Dem councillors. We never see these tame twelve taking on New Labour as they have no major political disagreements with them. They all agree with the ALMO, with privatising council services and with the regeneration/gentrification policies of New Labour. Lib Dem Leader Ian Sharer used to be a Labour councillor and probably would be again if they would let him join. Many of the Tories ran the council jointly with Labour during the Labour-Tory pact 6 years ago This was the time that brought us the Clissold Pool fiasco and the joint agreement to close Haggerston Pool.
Instead Labour’s electoral machine turned its fire on what they saw as threats to the status quo – maverick Lib Dem David Phillips in Hoxton, Tory populist Andrew Boff in Queensbridge and Hackney Independent in Haggerston.
The irony here is that we find it hard to tell the difference between the policies of New Labour, David Phillips and Andrew Boff. They all support privatisation. Boff supports the sale off Council-owned shops, he just thinks the Tories could do it more fairly and competently than Labour. However Phillips and Boff are campaigners and get in the Gazette and get out on the estates promoting their own parties, unlike the tame 12 in Stamord Hill. This is what drew Labour’s fire.
If only New Labour ran Hackney anything like as well as they fight elections. Hoxton, Haggerston and Queensbridge saw more of Jules Pipe and the New Labour leadership in the 4 weeks before the election than we did in the past 4 years.
We fear Labour’s hidden agenda for the next 4 years, that wasn’t in their glossy election leaflets, including:
* turning their Hackney Homes project into a housing association and giving it our council estates
* pushing through more privately-sponsored City Academies
* handing over the East of the borough to Olympic developers, who after 2012 will hand it over to big business
* building private flats on green spaces on our estates
* no new council housing but plenty more luxury flats
* more pay rises for councillors
* planning permission granted to property developers against the wishes of local communities
Is the only opposition to be the Green Party that thinks Hackney’s problems are not enough solar panels or missed recycling targets? Hackney Independent members are already in discussion with groups and individuals around the borough to play our part in opposing the New Labour hidden agenda.
If you want to talk to us about how best we can work together to keep Hackney for the people, contact us.
Hackney Independent recently received the following email:
“Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the sale of six Hackney council housing estates to Southern Housing Group Limited.
The investigation, spearheaded by Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Yates, will uncover whether disgraced former Secretary of State John Prescott instructed the land registry to go ahead with the sale after a freezing order was served on them by Stamford Hill Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association.
Although a freezing order can only be cancelled by a High Court judge the land registry said they had cancelled it. Enquiries are centring on why the cancellation letter dated 9th March, 2000 was not posted till 16th March.
Land Registry has admitted it was held back until Southern Housing had lodged their sale documents – thus making any further freezing order ineffective.
Tenants have complained that, although it was guaranteed that each estate in Hackney’s Estate Regeneration Strategy Group 6 – George Downing, Hillside, Hindle House, Keates, Kennaway and Stamford Hill – would vote separately on privatisation, Southern Homes lumped all the votes together when they announced the results. Lincoln Court’s vote (95% against) was not aggregated and they remain council tenants. Hillside’s similar vote was formally notified to Prescott by the Hillside Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association under Schedule 3A, Housing Act 1985 so that he could not legally consent to the transfer.
Southern Housing Group wrote to all tenants saying that estates voting in favour would join a new local housing company with tenant representation on the Board and invited them to pick a name and nominate tenant members.
Southern Homes (Hackney) Limited was chosen and a shadow board set up.
The sale documents were prepared in the name of Samuel Lewis Housing Trust Limited which has no tenant representation.
Tenants also complained that when they were first notified of the transfer proposals the estates were removed from all repair programmes and they were threatened that if they did not vote for privatisation their homes would fall to pieces around them. They went to Court after a pane of glass fell from a second – floor window on Hillside, narrowly missing a small girl, and roof tiles began blowing off Pembury in bad weather.
Stamford Hill Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association (SHETRA) invited Southern Homes to a public meeting on the estate to discuss the issues.
They never responded. Following the disappearance of the people who
were running it in 2000 (notably Sue and Roger Kingham and Linda and Chris Woodard) we put three questions to them:
(1) Southern Homes have been collecting the 10p a week tenants’ levy
from all tenants since 6th March, 2000. What have they done with this
(2) The last published accounts (for 1998/99) submitted to the Charity
Commissioners by Mrs Woodard, the then Treasurer, showed an income of £50,000. Where is the money now?
(3) Who told the Charity Commissioners that the Association (registered charity number 107470) had ceased to exist?
No response was received.
The freezing order is still in force, but that has not stopped Southern Homes building a new estate for sale at Hillside, without planning permission, and commencing construction of flats and bungalows for sale at George Downing and Stamford Hill, also without planning permission.
Hackney have confirmed on many occasions that they own the group six estates. At Thames Magistrates’ Court on 7th October 2004, in evidence to District Judge Stephen Dawson, Mr Van den Burgh, a Court Officer for Hackney council, confirmed that they own the estates and Southern Homes are there purely as managing agents. Southern Homes argued in Court that, although they acted fraudulently, their name was on the land register and therefore they own the estates. This is nonsense. Section 114 of the Land Registration Act provides:-
“… any disposition of land or of a charge, which if unregistered would be fraudulent and void, shall, notwithstanding registration, be fraudulent and void in like manner.”
Section 116(1) provides that any person who is involved in any interference iwth the land register is liable to go to jail. Section 116(2) provides:-
“Any entry, erasure, or alteration so made by fraud, shall be void as between all persons who are parties or privy to the fraud.”
After hearing the evidence Judge Dawson decided that Hackney own the estates and recorded this in his written judgment.
There is no prospect of Southern Housing Group getting planning permission for any of their developments. Even if the directors manage to complete them before getting thrown in jail they will never sell them.
One of the questions which prospective purchasers’ solicitors ask is “Has any work been done on the property in contravention of planning regulations?”
The shops in Broadway Market and Dalston Lane are not protected by a freezing order but the situation – attempted gentrification of council property by a developer claiming to own it – is likely to be similar.
Because of the fraud Hackney keeps title.
Stamford Hill Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association.”
Sheriff’s Officers arrived in Broadway Market at approximately 10.45 hours today and removed a Mitsibushi Shogun vehicle – regn: mark H836 FOY.
According to the Sheriff (who evicted the occupiers on 21/12/05 and 23/02/06 from 34 Broadway Market) he was acting on orders from Dr. Wratten who claims that he is still owed £14,000 in Court costs by Calogero Platia, and that he was ‘only doing his job’.
Surely, part of ‘doing his job’ involves ensuring that he is acting lawfully and that should include ensuring – before acting – that any possessions (goods and chattels) being removed actually belong to the person who is the subject of a Court Order.
Had he correctly done his job, he would have found that the vehicle concerned does not belong to Calogero Platia.
Such actions will, of course, damage the reputation of the Sheriff’s Officer, both in terms of his professionalism and his impartiality. This will be taken into account in future.
In the meantime, we would invite all relevant parties to make the necessary inquiries and to ensure that the vehicle in question is returned to the point from which it was taken immediately.
Failing this, formal allegations of theft will be made against the Sheriff’s Officer and against Dr. Wratten, and any other culpable party.
Over the past few months there have been various discussions with Hackney Council, both its Officers and Councillors in seeking to resolve outstanding issues from the property sales fiasco.
I am currently in contact with them regarding the recommendations put forward by the Governance & resources Scrutiny Committee Panel Review to recover the 14 units in Dalston Lane which are currently owned by the same Bahamas based Company which owns Spirit’s shop in Broadway Market. Those discussions are on-going.
But with regard to Spirit (71 Broadway Market) and Tony (34 Broadway Market) there has been no movement on the part of Hackney Council, although they acknowledge that the situation requires sorting out.
As many of you will know, Spirit won his appeal on 12th April 2006, although he still owed some £25,000 in rent arrears. His Landlords have now appealed against the decision of the Court. They will need to get permission to Appeal and a decision on this is expected within the next 7 days or so, although it is quite likely that they will get permission.
They are appealing the decision which, effectively, identified Spirit as an Assured Residential Tenant as they consider that decision to be unfair and flawed.
They are also appealing against the decision not toaward costs against Spirit.
Even so, they have also issued Notice of Seeking Possession of Spirit’s shop and home on the grounds that he is an Assured Tenant with more than 2 months rent outstanding. So they have covered all angles. This was an ideal opportunity for Hackney Council to intervene and to try to resolve the situation. I put this to them and they now advise only that they ‘will await the decision of the Court of Appeal before proceeding further’.
I would invite all supporters to write to Hackney Council or to e-mail them (see below) to protest at their inaction in dealing with the cases of Spirit and Tony and calling upon them to take immediate action to acknowledge past failings and to end the distress which this on-going situation is causing to both Spirit and Tony.
The contact details are as follows:-
Penny Thompson e:mail:- firstname.lastname@example.org
Chief Executive, London Borough of Hackney, Town Hall, Mare Street, London E8 1EA
Meic Sullivan Gould e:mail: email@example.com
Law & Democratic Services, Town Hall, Mare Street,London E8 1EA
Many thanks Arthur Shuter e:mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The last six months have been a hectic time for Hackney Independent. Starting at the end of November last year, our involvement with the occupation at 34 Broadway Market brought onto the national and international stage a level of condemnation for Hackney Council which is usually only reserved for dodgy third world regimes.
Not long after the occupation of Tony’s café was over we commenced the Haggerston local election campaign. The result was a victory for the Labour party with their candidates securing an average 986 votes compared to Hackney Independent’s highest vote of 616.
Labour won every seat in Hackney South & Shoreditch. They faced strong challenges from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Queensbridge and Hoxton, where, aside from a strong personal vote for Andrew Boff, the opposition parties achieved results comparable to Hackney Independent’s in Haggerston.
Of course its particular gutting to be beaten by a Blairite careerist with his snout in the PFI trough; a Trotskyite infiltrator and Cllr. Bright, but Hackney Labour party, feeling seriously challenged by Hackney Independent, threw all their available resources into the campaign.
Labour fought a negative campaign: their main trick being to scream of “chaos” if the Town Hall was to return to being a hung-council.
Most annoying was the dirty leaflet distributed on the day before polling day warning Haggerston residents that “a vote for independent is a vote for the Tory’s”. According to Labour we are under the thumb of the Conservative party!
We were a bit miffed about this as no one person involved in Hackney Independent has ever voted Conservative in their life, let alone been a member.
They also drew in criticism that the H.I. candidates weren’t local, and this was in a leaflet hand-delivered by “local” Labour candidate Barry Buitekant who lives in… wait for it… Upper Clapton!
On polling day itself they had bussed in Labour party activists from all over London, with Jules Pipe himself being present on and off throughout the day.
In his main post-election winning address Mayor Pipe singled out Hackney Independent for particular attention:
‘Voters in Haggerston saw through the nonsense being peddled by Hackney Independent, particularly about Broadway market where they had joined up with local Tories. Residents recognised that they had nothing positive to offer local people. They are now a spent force in Hackney.’
That’s fighting talk Jules!
Of course victory is preferable to coming second place again, but we take heart that our challenge prompted such Labour panic.
While Labour won using fear, lies and manipulation, Hackney Independent stood on a platform of community and solidarity.
We will continue to do so in the future.
For Hackney Independent, post-election plans are to build upon our free newsletter by increasing its size and distribution: as Labour have now publicly labelled us a primary threat to their rule in Hackney, it would be a shame to let them off the hook.
We also need to work out ways of securing regular streams of finance and to expand upon our activist base.
Needless to say, our work with Tenants’ Associations and around such campaigns as Broadway Market and Haggerston swimming pool will continue.
The challenge and the need for such an endeavour is still there. As Tony Blair’s neo-liberalism bites even more, the far-right will gain, and Labour will shrink.
We will work towards building a confident working class independent of the existing political structures, so that we can face the immediate challenges and work towards building a credible long-term strategy.
For those who haven’t given up hope yet we ask you to play a part in Hackney Independent.
Residents of the Whiston and Goldsmiths’ estates – and especially those in Debdale Court – are less than impressed with Hackney Council and British Waterways over the proposed development at Acton’s Lock. Squeezed between Debdale Court and the Regents Canal at the Eastern End of Whiston Road, the five-story building will comprise 25 flats and a restaurant.
It was given planning permission by Hackney Council in August, however Residents of Debdale Court, whose block will be dwarfed by the new building and whose views of the canal will disappear, have told Hackney Independent that the first they were aware of the proposed development was the receipt of a leaflet late in 2005, after planning permission was awarded. This makes a mockery of British Waterways commitment to consultation. Their website gushes: “Our canals and rivers pass through local communities across the length and breadth of the country. Waterway development is often closely linked to community aspirations and social issues at the local level. It is essential that the views of local communities are fully represented and effectively listened to. We are committed to getting the processes of dialogue and accountability absolutely right.” Right.
Typically, such rhetoric about ‘consultation’ hides the reality on the ground. ‘A similar development was proposed here about five years ago,’ says a Debdale resident, ‘but a petition and local pressure stopped it. There’s been no consultation with residents this time round. There’s no-one at Hackney Council who’ll tell you what’s going on.’ Hackney Council has decided to invite resident input into policy about the sale of its commercial properties, having been forced to by recent high-profile campaigns in Broadway Market and Dalston Lane. Hackney Independent would like to see this extended to all new developments in residential areas. Acton’s Lock is yet another example of ‘regeneration’ impacting negatively on the local communities it is supposed to benefit.
The Haggerston ward election resulted in a victory for the Labour party, with Hackney Independent coming second.
On average the Hackney Independent candidates received 578 votes while the Labour party candidates received 986.
We will be writing a more detailed analysis of the campaign sometime in the future.