From the Hackney Gazette
As they spend most of their time plotting in pubs around Broadway Market, I thought it would be useful to explain to the people of Haggerston ward where Hackney Independent thinking is moving these days.
Since they allowed Arthur Shuter to take on a leadership role in the organisation, their policy development has become much more imaginative. Here are just three Hackney Independent policy proposals from the last month:
In a letter to councillors, Arthur demands that a “high-class”, legalised brothel be built on Gillett Square to provide a new venue from which prostitutes can operate now that the council have cleaned up the area.
In their most recent leaflet, they wring their hands about the civil liberties implications of CCTV cameras and wonder whether they’re really needed. Ask any of the residents I represent what they think about CCTV and you’ll get a very straightforward answer.
Finally, on their website they say they wish the Olympics had gone to Paris. Even from people renowned for seeing the worst in everything that happens in Hackney, this is remarkable. Every child I meet when I go round Hackney schools can’t wait for the Olympics to come to our borough and they are embracing the opportunities it will bring. Thousands of job opportunities are already emerging.
I look forward to fighting Hackney Independent at the next election when they campaign on a platform of more brothels, fewer CCTV cameras and giving the Olympics to the French.
Cllr Jonathan McShane,
I was a bit bemused to read in the Gazette (November 23) that Hackney Independent were demanding a brothel be built in Gillett Square – until I learned that the mischievous source was Blairite Haggerston councillor, Jon McShane.
Cllr McShane flatters us when he acknowledges that Hackney Independent has become more imaginative, but sadly we are unable to reach the heights of fancy of New Labour spinners in the town hall. You really would have thought that they’d have been able to detect the satire in Arthur Shuter’s email. In any case, it’s hardly of significant public interest, is it?
Still, it gives us a chance to refer readers to our website at www.hackneyindependent.org for a glimpse at what’s going on in the real world, such as Labour plans to demolish more than 500 council homes and build private flats on valuable public space on our estates.
Hackney Independent has no desire to see a brothel built in Gillett Square, or elsewhere.
Anyway, who in their right mind would want to be involved in a large building project in New Labour’s Hackney – a brothel or otherwise – what with the inevitability of its going over-budget, costing council tax payers an arm and a leg, the likelihood of its falling down or closing down, then flogging off public assets to cover the costs. The words “throwing stones” and “glass houses” spring to mind. Perhaps Cllr McShane would care to comment on that? We won’t hold our breath.
Let me try to put to bed the Gillett Street issue once and for all. Some £750,000 was donated to improving the former car park and turning it into Gillett Square. When the local highways authority (Hackney Council) gets around to putting up new street signs, people might actually be able to find it.
Gone is the nearby Colin Roach Centre and the impressive Vortex Jazz Club has now moved into the square, taking pride of place in a much less impressive (and quite ugly) steel and glass building. Many of the other buildings along the edge of the square have yet to be finished and we wait to see what uses they will be put to and what it will all really cost.
Since the current administration took power in Hackney back in 2001 there have been many rhetorical policies issued. These include proposals to regenerate the borough “while ensuring that the poorer and most vulnerable groups within the local community are able to share in and benefit from the success so that they can achieve a much-improved lifestyle”.
What we are actually seeing is the poorer inhabitants being shifted out of the area completely to make way for those who are stupid enough to pay extortionate rates of council tax for expensive rabbit hutches to help fund lunatic policies and projects which are grossly overpriced and are causing a divide which, as even recent history in Bristol and the north-west tells us, can only lead to serious consequences.
The reality is that whole chunks of Hackney have been handed over to public and private property developers and are being converted to blocks of exclusive one and two-bedroom flats which are to be sold or let at prices that are increasingly beyond the means of even the middle classes for whom they are intended. The original residents of Hackney have two choices, live in squalor or move out. So much for them being able to share in the successes which recent policies have bestowed on Hackney as a place – though not on the people of Hackney themselves.
The recent inhabitants of Gillett Street were, I am told, local prostitutes who put their health, well-being and even their lives at risk on a daily basis turning tricks for a pittance because it was the only way they knew how to survive.
Perhaps they were among the 38 girls rounded up in an operation in Finsbury Park last week. Who knows?
Wherever the prostitutes went will probably remain as much a mystery as the identity of the street sleeper who died in his sleep the week before among a pile of cardboard boxes in Iceland’s Mare Street car park.
What is clear is that the girls were in the way of this magnificent project and just got moved on. How this answers the problem I really do not understand and this simply shows that this council’s rhetorical promises are not worth the paper they are written on.
For Cllr Jonathan McShane to suggest that my comments (and they were my comments alone, as are these) truly amounted to a call for a high-class brothel to be formally set up in Gillett Square shows that he has no answers to the real questions and chooses attack as his best form of defence.
But, like most of his colleagues, he tends to make things worse for Hackney’s Labour group and perhaps they ought to learn to keep their comments to themselves and get on with the job that they were elected for. Just occasionally they also seem to need to be reminded of what their role is – to listen to and represent the interests of the constituents whom they are supposed to serve, which means all of their constituents, not just a selected few.
Our Labour councillors already have their hands full trying to come up with believable answers to the stream of disasters which they have already created, such as the commercial property sales fiasco in Broadway Market and Dalston Lane, the shambles surrounding their grandiose plans for Dalston Junction and Dalston Lane South, the consequences for council tax payers of the LDA’s complete inability to control the ever spiralling cost of the 2012 Olympic Games and the fact that an increasing majority of the people of Hackney are starting to see through their total ineptitude.
These are major points which the council ought to be seeking to address, rather than trying unsuccessfully to score political points on an issue which they must by now realise they should have left well alone.
Certainly, the Labour group in Hackney are not being whipped into shape. Perhaps I should try to track down the former inhabitants of Gillett Street to see if they are more up to the job.
(from Hackney Gazette, DEC14, 2006)
Cllr McShane says (Gazette letters, December 7) that Hackney Independent’s summer newsletter featured a “hand-wringing” article about CCTV, in which we apparently put “human rights” over concerns of residents’ fear of crime. The article in question was about the floundering Shoreditch Digital Bridge project.
It rightly asked whether this was about addressing the issue of crime on our estates, or filling the coffers of major communications companies, and questioned if the money spent on failing CCTV projects could not better be spent on improved estate lighting, design, or youth services, about which Ofsted said of Hackney Council recently : “the range of youth work provision is insufficient to meet the needs of young people”.
To quote from the article: “We would like to start a real debate on the (CCTV) issue that doesn’t just accept New Labour’s solutions. After speaking to local people and doing surveys on estates, we know that many people in Haggerston are pro-CCTV.”
It’s surprising to learn that Cllr McShane bases his uncritical support for all that comes with the Olympics on the views of schoolchildren.
It’s ironic given that we’ve recently heard that national lottery funding of children’s community projects is set to be cut to meet the spiralling costs of the Olympics.
It is also bizarre when you consider how New Labour ignored the brilliant campaign run by pupils at Haggerston against their school becoming mixed sex, just like they ignored the views of the kids and parents of Laburnum school, which they closed in 2003.
Do schoolkids’ views only count when they can be used to back up the land grab of east London by developers that the Olympics is fronting?
The solutions to Hackney’s problems are much more complicated than “more CCTV” and “hooray for the Olympics”.
For once it would be interesting to hear Cllr McShane and his co-conspirators try to engage with these often complex issues rather than make half-baked attempts to smear their political opponents.
- BLOCK THEIR KNOCKDOWN! Council plan to demolish over 500 council homes & hand open spaces to developers.
- Council Jargon Explained
- Who loves Hackney?
- ASBO for Jules Pipe
- The tragedy of Holly Street
We have produced a special editon of our newsletter, publishing the results of our recent survey on Geffrye and Harman Street estates.
Hackney Independent, Stanway Special April 2005 (pdf format)
The beginning of 2005 has been as busy as every for Hackney Independent.
We have now registered with the Electoral Commission as a political party, and have had a number of meetings about our activities for the forthcoming year. The next issue of our newsletter is now at the printers (and will appear on this site shortly).
Throughout February, members of Hackney Independent surveyed residents of the Geffrye and Harman Street Estates about their experiences of anti-social behaviour. A special “Stanway Independent” newsletter will be produced shortly with a full report.
- Labour closed Laburnum School
- Privatisation of St Mary’s estate
- Street Lighting campaign
Jules Pipe – Hackney’s New Labour mayor – has pledged to improve lighting throughout the Borough as a key part of his anti-crime strategy.Hackney IWCA spokesperson Carl Taylor said:
“One of our criticisms of the Mayor is that we do not believe he will ask the council to prioritise those areas that need most improvement, working class areas of the Borough where crime and anti-social behaviour, and the fear of it, is the top priority for tenants and residents.”
This has been borne out by a street survey carried out with local residents recently – in a small dark, area of Haggerston ward – where 14 street lamps were discovered to be out of order. They have been reported to the council.
The Light Up Shoreditch! campaign seeks to encourage Shoreditch tenants and residents to join in demanding the council takes action now.
But in launching the campaign, Hackney Independent also attacked the limitations of the council’s own anti-crime strategy.
“Jules Pipe has made improved street lighting the core plank of his anti-crime strategy. We think that is pulling the wool over people’s eyes. In Shoreditch – and across Hackney – a large number of community facilities have had their funding cut or been closed. Restoring access to these facilities for young people will do far more in the fight against crime than changing a few light bulbs. We recognise that better street lighting can help reduce crime, but we won’t be fooled into thinking it should be the core part of the council’s strategy,” Carl Taylor added.
Officers from Estate Safety attended a raid last week by Hackney Police’s Central Sector Team. The raid at 163 Trelawney Estate, E9 was part of Operation Southpaw and was carried out under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
On forcing entry, the police found a large quantity of crack cocaine and associated drugs paraphernalia such as micro-scales and packing for reselling the narcotics.
The living room had been turned into a “shop” with a letterbox used for serving customers. The small bedroom had a microwave for cooking the raw cocaine into crack.
Various weapons were found in the premises, including knives, golf clubs and chisels. One woman was removed and charged and no lawful tenant or occupier was present.
The flat was secured temporarily by a padlock and “screw-eyes”. On returning an officer from Estate Safety found that further drug dealers had broken in again.
After enlisting the support of another officer the address was visited again and two people were asked to leave. They agreed to do so after a short conversation.The flat was repossessed and Hackney Building Maintenance took it over. The front door was secured by nailing it up and a large lock and chain was fitted to secure the gate. A permanent security door has also been installed.Julius Nkafu, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Crime, said ” Hackney Council is determined to clamp down on anyone seeking to abuse our estates and disrupt the lives of everyone living there. We will continue to work with the police to stamp out the drugs trade in the borough.”
How many councillors does it take to change a lightbulb?
The IWCA survey in Haggerston last year proved what everybody knows: that crime and anti-social behaviour is the biggest single issue in the ward. If you have not been directly affected by crime then it has probably affected one of your friends or family. This isn¹t whipping up the fear of crime this is how we are living.
Tony Blair famously said that a New Labour government would be “tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.” Recently a series of measures to punish the perpetrators of anti-social behaviour was unveiled. But much of this is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
How can Labour seriously claim to be tough on the causes of crime in inner-city areas like Hackney when its local councils are cutting the resources that we depend on to ensure that young people don¹t get involved in crime in the first place?
This is not to excuse anti-social behaviour. Muggings, assaults and lesser offences make our lives a misery and should not be tolerated. But any serious solution must recognise that without access to real opportunities some young people will start to offend.
In the current issue of Hackney Today our New Labour mayor tells us that the solution to tackling crime is “by fixing or upgrading street lights and putting in CCTV in high crime areas”. This really is an insult to our intelligence. It is not just that CCTV does hardly anything to reduce crime (as government reports acknowledge). It is that New Labour also presides over the slashing of resources that would go some way to preventing young people involving themselves in crime. You just have to turn the page to see how this is happening in Haggerston.
Hackney Council cuts are causing crime.
Improved street and estate lighting would not solve all our problems but we do know that muggers prefer to operate in the dark and reports show that lighting can be an effective way of reducing criminal activity. The mayor says he wants to improve street lighting. However we don¹t believe that Labour will prioritise working class areas.
That¹s why the IWCA is launching a campaign to improve the lighting in this area. It will be the main subject at the ward meeting in December. (see box below). Come along and support the campaign. We will be contacting every tenant and community group, as well as the schools, asking for their support.
And we need to hear from you. We want you to call and tell us the blocks where the lights haven¹t been working, where the darkest spots are, and if you want to help with the campaign. You can leave a message on 7684 1743.
Together we can force this council to fulfil its responsibilities by lighting up Shoreditch.
Haggerston News Updates
ONE O’CLOCK CLUBS
We reported in the last issue of this newsletter, that the Haggerston One O¹Clock Club, which is based in Haggerston Park, was due to close next year due to having it¹s funding withdrawn.
The good news Hackney Council has given it another year¹s funding. The bad news What will happen to this valuable local service, if it can¹t get funding after that ?
We have consistently stated that Hackney Council should fulfil its obligations and fund groups like this, for the long term. Otherwise how can they plan for the future, and look to expand on and improve the services they currently offer if they are continually victim to this short-term funding mentality ?
Ok, they may be able to get money from the central government Sure Start initiative (which is aimed at families with children 0-4 years of age), but this will not run for ever, and again it lets the council off the hook.
These alternative funding regimes are all well and good, but more often than not they are used to fill gaps in the existing services, rather than improve and provide new ones, which is what they are supposedly intended for where¹s the logic in that ?
APPLES & PEARS
Mixed news from the Apples and Pears adventure playground. Earlier this year the IWCA backed the parents¹ campaign to stop the Council selling off their site for a housing development. The Council dropped these plans, but then has tried a new way of forcing Apples and Pears off the site by bringing in a high rent and cutting their grant.
The Council tried to get a £1000 a year rent, with a review after two years. Bear in mid that until now there was no rent to pay and why should there?
The Apples and Pears went to court and got a new seven year lease with no rent review. Bu they still need to raise the £1000 rent each year.
The Council was trying to get the Apples and Pears to run on a grant of £10,000 for 6 months. Through campaigning the parents got this increased to £20,000. This might seem like a victory but again bear in mind that they used to get £40,000 for 6 months so it is actually a cut of 50% – and the council want them to keep opening for the same hours for this money.
The IWCA supports the parents and believes the Council should bring back the full £80,000 a year grant, stop charging them rent and look to give further one-off grants to improve the facilities.
During the Mayoral elections the Haggerston Pool Campaign called a meeting for all Mayor candidates to ask their views. Only one candidate did not promise to re-open the Pool.
You¹ve guessed it Labour¹s Jules Pipe. He then got elected as Mayor with 10% of the vote.
The New Deal (or “Shoreditch Our Way”) continue to push the proposal to put private flats into Haggerston Pool. This issue was discussed at the New Deal¹s Area 4 Forum covering all the estates around the Pool like St Mary¹s, Kingsland and Fellows Court. The Forum voted against the plan for private flats. What was the response of £65,000 a year New Deal Director Michael Pyner? “I¹m ruling nothing out.”
And they keep telling us that the New Deal is community-led. Community mis-led more like. The IWCA will continue to fight along with the wider community to re-open Haggerston Pool with no private flats on the site.
WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH!
IWCA members toured every estate in Haggerston one week after the bin strike and found that many were still suffering the effects. Yet our inspection of surrounding street properties found no major problems. Lets be clear – we have no problem with Bin workers striking for more pay. The issue here is that yet again the council has put the maintenance of estates second.
“It was no surprise to us that the Council had left the estates till last as usual, while putting the needs of those in big houses around London Fields first. After all that¹s where the Labour vote is these days” stated the IWCA¹s Carl Taylor in the Hackney Gazette (November 21st).
“IWCA policy is that the estates should be cleared first. This is not just because we always put the needs of the working class first. It also makes sense to us that if 40 flats share one communal bin area you clear that before someone who has their own front and back garden and has a chance of managing their own rubbish.”
Kingsland Estate Tenant & Resident Association Chair Anna Maria Mari echoed the IWCA position. Standing with IWCA members and Kingsland Estate residents by a pile of rubbish that had piled up over the previous two weeks, she stated “We¹ve had enough. We¹re fed up with being at the end of the line. The Council isn¹t managing our estate properly. We¹re considering managing it ourselves.”
Margaret McTernan, pictured with her children Shannon and Sean McCarton said she thought that it was “disgusting” that the rubbish had been left for so long.
The IWCA¹s Peter Sutton said it was ” a disgrace and a health risk” that the Council had left the huge pile of rubbish at Hebden Court, Kingsland Estate. While this was the worst case, estates across the Ward were left with piles of rubbish. Peter criticised the local Labour councillors, “The IWCA may have narrowly lost the election in Haggerston to Labour, but where are our Labour councillors now? We¹re the ones going around the Ward, taking up local issues and campaigning alongside the community. What did Haggerston¹s Labour councillors do about the Council¹s failure to clear the rubbish from our estates?”
After pressure from residents, the tenant association, the IWCA and an article in the Gazette, the Council finally cleared the rubbish 13 days after the strike ended.
Hawksley 2 Orange 0
The ever-vigilant residents of Hawksley Court Estate, in Albion Road, Stoke Newington, have been out on the streets again.
This time, they have managed to prevent contractors on 2 occasions from gaining access to the estate to erect a mobile telephone mast for Orange. On the last successful blockade a few weeks ago, residents waved placards with the clear message “Hawksley 2 Orange 0”.
Unfortunately, the new Mayor of Hackney, Jules Pipe, has decided to get in on the act, and showed his face on one of the blockades. Full of bluff and bluster, he issued a statement saying, “Once again I call on Orange to take the moral course of action and not enforce this contract. Otherwise I will be joining local residents in physically seeking to prevent them from getting onto the estate”.
He also goes on to add that the council “MISTAKENLY” signed the contract, which allowed companies like Orange and BT to install these masts on a number of housing estates across the borough. We would argue that Hackney Council “DELIBERATELY” signed these contracts, because it was desperate to get it¹s hands on the few thousands of pounds being offered by these companies, to install these masts on council property. Also, if it means a few working-class people getting ill due to the radiation that comes from them who cares certainly not the likes of Jules Pipe.
Finally, if Orange and the other mobile phone companies are to be permanently prevented from carrying out these installations, it will be down to the hard work and organisation of residents on this and other Hackney estates not a few fine words from the new Mayor of Hackney.
PRICED OUT OF COMMUNITY HALLS
No sooner was New Labour leader Jules Pipe elected as Hackney¹s Mayor than we hear of plans to start charging “market rents” for using the borough’s community halls. The impact this will have on groups who use the borough’s rooms and halls whether for keep fit for pensioners or martial arts for youngsters, prayer meetings or line-dancing is predictable. A lot of very ordinary but worthwhile activities will stop altogether if participants cannot afford to shell out.
A special case has been made for political or lobbying groups; they will not be able to use the halls AT ALL whether they can afford to or not. The IWCA uses halls and rooms in Haggerston and Hoxton to run benefit and housing surgeries for tenants and residents and local residents have made use of community halls to organise campaigns protesting against the council¹s inaction over abandoned cars or the closure of Laburnum school.
If Labour’s proposals go through they will have put another significant barrier in the way of people who want to organise to resist cuts and campaign for improved local services.
If you use a community hall for any activity and want to know how this will affect you then contact the council and ask them. Let us know what response you got by leaving a message on 020 7684 1743 letting us know what group you are from and which hall/room you use.
We almost forgot to tell you…
Stuart Craft became the IWCA’s first councillor, when he was elected to represent the Blackbird Leys Estate, on the outskirts of Oxford.
There were also very good results for our other candidates who stood in Islington and Havering. On average we gained over 25% of the vote in every area the IWCA stood.
Hackney IWCA election candidate, Peter Sutton, said, “This was a great result in Oxford, and the IWCA in Hackney and the other areas will be looking to build on this success in the 2006 elections”.
He went on to add, “We are now concentrating our efforts on getting more local residents involved in the organisation, because the bigger we are, the more effective we can and need to be, in this area. So, if you like what you read in this newsletter, and you think things need to change for working-class people in Haggerston, please get in touch with us.”
NEW LABOUR: SAME OLD STORY
The victory of the Labour candidate, Jules Pipe, in Hackney’s mayoral election now gives them a 33 seat council majority, two MPs and a national Government. Hackney or what is left after large parts of it have been handed over to a series of unelected bodies – is now completely under Labour control. Years of incompetence and corruption have led to the borough being massively in debt. One of the solutions to this problem has been to brutally cut and privatise services. Almost no area has been left untouched, apart of course from the salaries of senior council staff such as Chief Executive Max Caller and his councillor chums. (The latest kick in the teeth is the revelation that councillor salaries are set to soar.)
One other solution, part of the council’s long term plan for the borough, is to replace the working class majority with a higher earning and higher spending middle class. Fewer undesirable working class people means the council has to provide less of the services these undesirables use: nurseries, health care, school places, council housing. This social cleansing of Hackney’s most deprived areas is the reality behind all the talk about regeneration and New Deals.
Every public service in Hackney like many at a national level has been looked at closely with an eye to privatisation, excepting those that have already been closed down or those that cannot yet be legally farmed out to the private sector. For example, in a Council press release entitled “Exciting Improvements to Hackney Leisure Centres”, Labour outline the handing over of parts of Kings Hall and Britannia leisure centres to company Leisure Connection to turn them into private fitness clubs. We are assured that this will provide an “affordable fitness solution”. But as the IWCA asked in a recent letter to the Hackney Gazette: “Are prices going to be affordable to all sections of our community”?
In Shoreditch we have seen Haggerston Pool close with no commitment from Labour to reopen it. Local facilities are constantly under threat of grant cuts or closure. The extension of the privatisation of housing management and the stock transfer of whole estates hangs over the area. Public land is being auctioned off sometimes at give-away prices for developers to build yuppie flats.
Prior to the elections in May, Labour had very little to say about their plans for cuts and sell-offs.
Perhaps if they had been honest about what the council was going to do with Apples & Pears and Laburnum School our three Labour councillors would not have been elected. But of course, the Lib-Dems and the Tories are no better. The Tories¹ national record and the Lib-Dems¹ privatisation of neighbouring Islington¹s council services provides more than enough evidence of what their agenda¹s really are.
The IWCA is the real opposition to Labour in Haggerston. We came close to taking at least one of their seats in the May elections having said very clearly that we supported the campaign to reopen Haggerston Pool and opposed cuts in local services.
The IWCA’s priorities for Shoreditch could not be more different to New Labour’s. Our concern is for the ordinary people of this area where we live and how we are living not to try to solve our problems by either pretending they don’t exist or farming off much-needed facilities to the private sector.