The following article was sent to Hackney Independent. The author wished to remain anonymous:
If you were walking past Hackney Town Hall a couple of weeks ago you may well have noticed a protest being held by London Field residents over the erection of a phone mast by T mobile in the Richmond Road area.
Back in 2004 the Council failed to respond to or reject a planning application from the company to build the mast and as such T-mobile exploited planning laws by deciding to go ahead with their plans at the end of April.
Protesters gathering on the Town Hall steps were delighted when Labour Chief, Jules Pipe addressed them stating, ‘T-mobile should do the honourable thing and not go near London Fields.’
Considering the concerns over the possible health implications of placing radiation emitting devices close to busy public areas I think that we would all agree with the sentiment of Mayor Pipe and his apparent resolute stand against such developments!
However I was recently on the 55 bus passing through Lower Clapton and to my surprise I noticed a new mast, situated on top of a portacabin, between Mildenhall and Atherden Road.
The top of the aerial is almost level with the top deck of a bus and in heavy traffic passengers are presented with a safety sign on the mast itself which rather alarmingly alerts readers;
‘DANGER MICROWAVE RADIATION’
You have plenty of time to read the sign as you sit in rush hour traffic adjacent to the microwaves and the new flats which they front.
It struck me on observing the demonstration by residents from the recently gentrified Martello Street and surrounds that Mr Pipe appeared to be saying one thing and doing another.
Appeasing the middle class residents of the ex-squatted, Class War heartlands whilst on the other hand apparently ignoring the carcinogenic pulses of masts in Lower Clapton, one of Hackney’s more run down areas populated in the majority by working class people.
On further investigation it seems that Hackney is covered in ‘base stations’. Indeed in Clapton alone there are many, including four on the Lea Bridge Roundabout (at least two on top of the B-Six sixth form college), two on the Pembury Estate and two on buildings around the Downs.
Furthermore there are at least seven on Mare Street, two on top of the Trelawny Estate and loads in Dalston.
It would seem that the only real ‘reception black spot’ in Hackney is the London Fields area and although I do not take issue with those expressing their rights to demonstrate on that sunny day in April I do take issue with the cynical and ill informed approach of a Mayor who has been leading the council for the last 11 years during which time mobile phone masts have been springing up all over the place, on schools and Council blocks throughout the Borough.
If the Mayor, who exclaimed that T-mobile had ‘no moral right’ to build the mast in London fields, feels so strongly about their erection then perhaps he should examine the Council’s income to see how much the Borough makes from renting out their building’s rooftops to phone companies.
If readers feel the need to contact him to express their concern at his apparent hypocrisy may I suggest that they ring from Lower Clapton I understand that the coverage there is excellent!!!
From Hackney Gazette, March 15 2007
Town Hall Chief’s Pay is Revealed
“Fat Cat” salaries pocketed by Hackney Town Hall chiefs have been revealed following an investigation by a campaign group.
The six-figure sums taken home by senior bureaucrats were released under the Freedom of Information Act by the Taxpayer’s Alliance.
It shows the top 10 highest earners in the town hall raked in more than £1 million between them in the last financial year.
The highest-earning Hackney Council officer is the chief executive, Penny Thompson, who was paid £164,839, just £22,000 less than the Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Next up is director of housing Steven Tucker, who earned £126,000, followed by Gillian Steward, the director of customer and corporate services, who took home £123,000.
Timothy Shields, the director of finance, and Kim Wright, the director of community services, both earned £120,000.
The report was released by pressure group, the Taxpayer’s Alliance, who said the figures were “insulting”.
Chairman Andrew Allum said: “It’s a complete insult to tax-payers’ dignity that so much of their money goes down the drain on top salaries for council staff.”
Jane Holgate, secretary of Hackney Trades Union Council, also condemned the salaries.
She said: “I think it is disgraceful, particularly given the fact that many of the council’s employees are on low salaries and living in a London borough where the cost of living is very high.
“We are operating in a tight labour market and these jobs would be filled despite the inflated salaries.”
The campaign group, London Council’s, which represents the capital’s local authorities, said senior officers were worth the money.
London Council’s chairman, Cllr Merrick Cockell, said: “Being a borough chief executive is not a small job. Public demand for excellent service and value for money means that we need to recruit the best possible candidates for these demanding roles.
“This can only be achieved, especially in the capital with its high costs of living, by offering competitive salaries.
“That said, they work incredibly hard for their money – and are paid far less than they would be in an equivalent job in the private sector.
“These people are individuals who want to make a difference to their community and they must be rewarded for that.”
A Hackney Council spokeswoman said: “Hackney’s pay for its chief officers is in line with that offered by comparable authorities in London and across the country.
“Local government in London is a competitve recruitment field and chief officer salaries reflect what we need to pay to attract the best people to improve services for the people of Hackney.”
Hackney Council are trying to boost their green credentials with a “compulsory recycling” scheme. The pages of Hackney Today and the council website are full of recycling initiatives. Why has this suddenly become a priority of our Labour council?
A look at the voting figures from last May’s elections show that apart from the four Tory/Lib Dem wards in the North East of the Borough that Labour have written off, the Green Party is now the opposition to Labour in the majority of wards. The Greens secured hundreds of votes even in wards where they stood paper candidates and did not campaign at all.
Labour has reacted to this pressure with various recycling initiatives. Even though they only won one seat, the Green Party have got a result.
Of course, there was a “pilot” for compulsory recycling last year. Labour knew they were up against it from the Greens in Clissold Ward so they introduced a bogus pilot in the Church Street area. They put out leaflets and council staff knocked on doors in the run up to the local elections saying recycling was now compulsory. And of course nothing happened as a result of this cynical stunt. Where was the follow up when the election was over?
Recycling is a government target for councils to meet. There are hard targets like running good schools, leisure facilities and council estates. And there are relatively easy ones like recycling, where you can easily make an impact on those who don’t necessarily use public services but do buy into the new green consensus.
Yes, Hackney council needs to organise recycling, but it also needs to put improved public services first. Instead of backing plans to fine those who don’t recycle, we should be throwing out of office those who cannot get our swimming pools open, clean and repair our estates (without the threat of flogging off bits of them to pay for improvements) or run the best possible schools for all of our kids.
Labour pursues recycling as the easier option, instead of improving services they should be prioritising, but have since lost interest in running themselves. Key services have been turned over to private companies like the Learning Trust, Greenwich Leisure and, in council housing, the double privatisation of both “Hackney Homes” and the private contractors managing each neighbourhood.
Hackney New Labour has been allowed to recycle the Tory policies of privatisation, land sales and gentrification for too long.
It’s nice to read that Sue Foster, Head of Planning in Hackney, has received an OBE in the New Years Honours list.
“There were very serious failures, with delays in taking action of several years. It is fair to say the planning department was in a state of complete disarray”
To be including in the Order of the British Empire in this day and age is a truly super achievement, and as “our boy’s” fight to defend the North West Frontier in Afghanistan and bring “civilization” to the people of Iraq, it is only fit that those on the frontline in Hackney are also awarded equal acknowledgement for their marvellous good work.
Only some though may be a little perplexed at this award when the Local Government Ombudsman issued a report on December 22, 2006 that “heavily criticised” Hackney council’s Planning Department.
Indeed, they declared that “complete disarray” ruled in the Planning Department and unauthorised development within the borough is “endemic”.
It looks like she was nominated for this award by the council’s Chief Executive and Returning Officer, Penny Thompson – which is nice and cosy.
Of course, Hackney council responds by saying that matters are now improving, but as New Labour sing, things can only get better.
As for Sue Foster, considering that Naseem Hamed has just had his MBE revoked, may we too look for similar action from the Crown towards certain subjects of the British Empire in Hackney?
For the full Local Government Ombudsman report click on here: http://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/planning/enforcement/05a12349-05a10374-06a03393?displaypref=0
The ferocious war of words between Hackney Labour Party and Hackney Independent continues.
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.
– Arthur Shuter
The saga began during the May elections when a number of inaccurate allegations were made against us in Labour Party election material: that Hackney Independent is against Anti-Social Behaviour Orders and only into “trendy issues such as Dalston theatre”!
The truth of the matter is that Hackney Independent had never commented on ASBOs, not least because in Haggerston ward only one had ever been issued, making it an issue irrelevant to local people at that time. But as ASBOs seem to be feature of the government’s agenda for some time to come we have opened a debate on the issue and given space in our Winter newsletter to a local teenager to air his views on the subject.
As for Dalston Theatre, which we did not mention in our election material, it’s hard to take seriously the idea that the eviction of hard-working shop-keepers and the demolition of an historical landmark for the sake of 19-story tower blocks of private flats is somehow a “trendy” issue.
Hackney Independent ran a completely positive election campaign that didn’t stoop to political smears and personal attacks on any of our opponents. Rightly or wrongly, we chose not to walk in the gutter. Perhaps we were naïve, but we genuinely believed – and still believe – that the reason most people get turned off by politics is just the kind of empty mud-slinging and spin that New Labour excels at.
Events have veered off at an even stranger angle in recent weeks with allegations from Haggerston Councillor Jonathan McShane in the Hackney Gazette. McShane states that Hackney Independent are opposed to CCTV on purely civil liberties grounds, that we are campaigning for the 2012 Olympics bid to be transferred to Paris and, most bizarrely, that we want a brothel to be opened in Gillett Square, Dalston!
In reference to CCTV, this was an article published in our free newsletter this summer entitled `Who benefits from `ASBOTV’?’ The piece was a detailed examination of the sinister Digital Bridge project on the Haberdasher and Charles square estates. This is a proposed scheme in which residents, for a fee, can gain access to local CCTV cameras through their own television set. (See Summer 2006 newsletter on this website.)
The conclusion of this article was clear: `Hackney Independent have never had an “official position” on CCTV. We would like to start a real debate on the 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.’
OLYMPICS – GETTING A FAIR DEAL
The Olympics is coming to London in 2012. There is nothing that Hackney Independent or anybody else can do or say to change this fact. But what we can do is to try and ensure that the Olympic project benefits everybody rather than just the property developers and the politicians’ egos in City Hall. That means
*construction work that is well-paid, unionised and primarily draws its labour from the local area
*other forms of employment to meet a minimum standard London wage (as TELCO have campaigned for)
*social housing rather than private developments
*a building programme that respects local green space rather than bulldozing over it
*consultation that’s a genuine dialogue with local residents rather than the snooty dismissal to opposition that is always generated by the urban elite.
Hackney Independent has no illusions that that the Olympics is about sport. It is about business and making money. As this process unfolds in the coming years we will work with others to ensure as much of the billions spent on this project benefits the working classes of East London as is possible. Having said that, we are sadly under no illusions that the usual fat-cats and prima-donna politicians will be those who most benefit…
Unfortunately, it may prove to be the case that the people of London – after 2012 and beyond – will wish that Paris had won this white-elephant after all. (Those interested in a critical analysis of 2012 are recommended the games monitor website at www.gamesmonitor.org.uk.)
PIMP MY PUBLIC SERVICES
The accusation that we are for building a brothel in Gillett Street has been adequately responded to in the letters pages of the Hackney Gazette, copies of which can be found in the `letters’ section of this website.
As Carl Taylor wrote: `Hackney Independent has no desire to see a brothel built in Gillett Square, or elsewhere.’ Arthur Shuter made the point: `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.’
THE REAL ISSUES
Since the elections Hackney Independent has distributed two newsletters across the ward and organised two Kids Cinema shows, Labour has not put out a newsletter in the ward. The Hackney Labour website shows no updates since May. What a contrast to the months running up to the council elections when Labour was putting out regular newsletters and updating their website. We have said it before and we will say it again now: Labour lies to the working class during elections and ignores us in between.
Rather than address the real issues of social cleansing and the displacement of the poor in their vision of Hackney’s future, Labour can only resort to lies and spin. Pipe’s `I Love Hackney’ sloganeering is a piece of empty gush. Yes, Jules, we too `love’ Hackney – but we want a Hackney that values all its residents not just those who can afford to move in and live here.
Despite Mayor Pipe’s jubilant post-election address that Hackney Independent `are finished’, the group is still actively campaigning as a part of and with the working class of Hackney. We will continue to do so – on real issues rather than the fiction that Hackney Labour Party accuses us of dealing with. Councillor McShane says he looks forward to challenging Hackney Independent at the next local elections. We should remind Cllr McShane that the battle for ideas and campaigning takes place in the here and now – not just every four years at election time. This is the battle that Hackney Independent is engaged in at this moment.
A big debate has kicked off following the announcement by a Channel 4 Property Show that Hackney is ‘the worst place to live in Britain’.
The young professionals who have been buying houses in the area have used their privileged positions in the media to jump to Hackney’s defence. This article from the BBC’s website is a hilarious example: “As a resident of the borough -albeit for only the last four months – let me tell you one thing: the findings are rubbish. For many of us, this pearl of cultural diversity and tolerance in north-east London is little short of an earthly Eden. Bars, restaurants, parks, canals reminiscent of the great days of Venice – we have it all on our doorstep”.
Middle class mayor Jules Pipe has been publicly defending Hackney, criticising the programme and claiming that “their survey takes no account of the things that really make a place great; people, architecture, culture, nightlife, parks”. He has asked everyone in the borough to “wear your I love Hackney badge with pride” in protest at the TV show.
Unfortunately for the Mayor, many residents seem to have taken a rather different view. “Where are all the letters of love for Hackney?” asked the Gazette as it printed a page full of angry letters attacking Pipe and complaining about “rotting windows, cockroaches rats, burnt out cars, no playgrounds for children” and pointing out the levels of crime in the area.
“The worst place to live, how right you are” wrote a resident from Haggerston Estate. These very different reactions clearly show that there are now two very different realities in Hackney – one for those who can afford to enjoy the bars, boutiques and ‘architecture’ and another where basic needs like decent housing are not being met.
The angry letters in the Gazette have exposed Pipe’s pathetic ‘I love Hackney’ campaign as a classic piece of New Labour pin. Rather than tackling any of the real problems faced by most working people all the council have to offer is an empty slogan.
Despite Jules Pipe’s attempts to present himself as a man of the people, defending “poorer people” against the “middle class snobs” at Channel 4, it’s clear that the council seem far more interested in attracting profiteering developers and posh professionals into the area with ‘culture’ and ‘nightlife’ than sorting out conditions on council estates.
The real truth of what New Labour have planned for Hackney was grimly spelled out on the Channel 4 property show: “Property developers, who are expecting big returns resulting from the Olympic games covet the area. It might be the least pleasant place to live in the UK, but you’d be a fool not to invest here…”
Council Plan to demolish over 500 homes and hand open space to developers
I simply do not believe that there is sufficient ‘underused’ land on these 28 estates to fit in 550 homes, so the Council must be defining areas as ‘underused’ which residents do in fact use. To the Council and the developers, ‘underused’ probably means ‘not making money’.
– Janine Booth
Now the elections are out of the way and Hackney Labour have power until 2010, they are turning on our estates. The council want to knock down over 500 homes and build on open spaces and car parks. Surprise, surprise, the new homes will be for housing associations or for private sale.
Estates targeted so far are Suffolk, Fellows Court, Wenlock Barn, St John’s, St Leonards, De Beauvoir and Haberdashers. But this is only the beginning – the Council want to buld on 13 sites on Wenlock Barn alone. Expect more estates to be included later.
Instead of focussing on the task of spending our rents and service charges on cleaning and repairing our homes, the council’s main push is to hand over sites to developers. Most estates are already overcrowded and we need green spaces, playgrounds and parking. Hackney Independent sees these spaces as being vital to our community. Labour sees them as an opportunity to bring in their developer friends.
The council plans will bring chaos to estates that are already overcrowded. Even the council admit that Hackney has the third highest level of over-crowding in England. How will these plans help matters? Worse still, the plan is for at least 3 out of every 10 new homes built on our estates to be private – for homeowners or high renters. You can bet that the end result will be more than 3 out of 10.
A council report states that extra funds will be put into the targeted estates to “assist residents to consent.” – in other words they are trying to bribe residents into going along with their privatising agenda! Of course this also means less money for other estates. The report also states that “Shoreditch Trust representatives have been involved in the development of this strategy.” We spoke to some of the elected resident representatives and the plans are news to them! Worse still the Council claim they are carrying out “early consultation” for the proposals but a council insider has told Hackney Independent that the decisions have already been made.
Any new building in Hackney should be council housing for overcrowded tenants, and young people needing a place of their own – and shouldn’t take away space on existing estates. We need to campaign against these plans and stop Hackney Council from flattening council flats and destroying play areas and replacing them with private homes. This isn’t just an issue for those already targeted by the council. Your estate could be next!
Hackney Independent’s summary of the council’s plans is available here on our website as a pdf.
Council Jargon Explained
The proposals for the ‘Next Estate Regeneration Programme’ are written in council jargon. Here we pick out some of the quotes and tell you what they actually mean:
“We aim to continue tenure diversification”
This means they want fewer council tenants and more private renters and home owners.
This means knocking council houses down.
“Land assembly and decanting”
Dividing up any open space into packages for developers and getting the tenants out.
This means building on any available open space.
What people are saying about the council’s plans
“I simply do not believe that there is sufficient ‘underused’ land on these 28 estates to fit in 550 homes, so the Council must be defining areas as ‘underused’ which residents do in fact use. To the Council and the developers, ‘underused’ probably means ‘not making money’.”
“Hackney Council won’t be happy until they’ve sold the entire estate off”
Harry, Wenlock Barn
“I don’t want local green spaces used for development”
Ian, Wenlock Barn
“Have you seen Hackney Today recently? An article states ‘I love Hackney because of its green spaces’”
Tony Butler, Hackney Independent
by James Ballhatchett
After the reckless demolition of the Laburnum Primary School on Laburnum Street in September/November of last year to create another Blairite City academy, the after effects are still being felt by residents of Laburnum Court after a mass invasion of mice fleeing the wreckage to lay their new home in our homes.
In one flat (flat 3) alone 20 mice have been caught since November and no. 20 arrived Wednesday 13th of September.
The case has been looked upon by the Hackney Council but all they can do is deliver an endless supply of mouse traps and say ‘what else can we do’.
After the reported drive by the council to supply us with decent ‘Hackney Homes’ we ask ‘where is the evidence?’
Here is the evidence of the mice:
Member Working Party Panel Review Hearings February 27, March 6 and March 14, 2006
On 20th February 2006, following a motion put before the Full Council on 1st February, Hackney’s Overview & Scrutiny Commission met to record its proposals for a Review Panel to examine how the property sales procedures adopted in 2000 had impacted on local business and residential communities and to investigate the role of Nelson Bakewell auctioneers in the sales procedures.
The public review lasted, effectively, for six hours, with much behind the scenes gathering of documents and written submissions and responses.
This was a mammoth task in reality and there were unlikely to be any concrete proposals coming from any recommendations that the panel could be expected to formulate in such a short timeframe.
The enquiry sat on 27th February and Chair James Cannon set the remit for the 3 session debate. Week one concentrated mainly on the cases of Spirit and Tony from Broadway Market, both of whom gave unscripted evidence before the panel.
Andrew Boff, Tory panel member and Councillor for Queensbridge ward asked many sympathetic questions and drew the expected responses, particularly from Tony who referred to the previous administration as a bunch of corrupt thieves.
Bill Hodgson, outgoing Labour Queensbridge Councillor, did his best to salvage his party’s image by implying that Tony and Spirit could have acted quicker to get their freeholds and were up against market forces over which the Council had little or no control.
Our fears about Tony were not realised and every member left the first hearing in one piece and returned on 6th March to hear evidence about Dalston Lane.
Bill Parry-Davies, local solicitor (who has acted in the past for both Tony and Spirit) and is Director of OPEN-Dalston, gave evidence about how 14 properties in Dalston Lane had been gifted to an offshore Company (which still owns Spirit’s Broadway Market unit under a different name) because the leaseholders who had operated their businesses from the area for many years were not informed in advance that Nelson Bakewell had reached the decision to sell the units as a job lot.
The leaseholders had turned up at the auction as individuals with well over £ 3 million to spend in total, but were not even given the chance to pool their resources because they never knew they might have to, and the entire site sold for just £ 1.8 million.
Yes, if the Dubai based buyers were hell-bent on buying the site they could certainly have outbid the leaseholders, but at least that way the people of Hackney would have gained some benefit from the extra £1.5 million that would have raised. Instead, the Dubia group (who operate their business from a tax haven in the Bahamas) were allowed to rob the local community and have since watched as mysterious fires have forced out all but the last few remaining leaseholders and have damaged the buildings so much that they will now need to be demolished. This is exactly what the owners wanted to happen and even Councillors are now openly stating that the new owners set the fires for this purpose.
Bill Parry-Davies also used his legal influence to mention the OPEN-Dalston campaign and to highlight the methods by which Hackney Council has pushed through its plans for the Dalston Theatre site and the underhand way that local planners have bullied Councillors into passing demolition plans.
Then 3 leaseholders who have managed to survive in their Dalston Lane properties told the Panel that they had never really been offered the opportunity to buy their business premises and were never allowed to seek advice or group themselves together. Their evidence was compelling and clearly shocked the Labour Panel members who had already decided how to defend the Council from any further damage.
Part 3 of the Inquiry was listed for hearing at 2pm on 14th March. The day before, the panel chair informed us that thee was no time for any further verbal submissions and that the hearing would concentrate on past submissions and responses from the Council. If we wanted any further evidence to be considered it would have to be drawn up in written form and presented to the Council’s officers within a few hours.
With a lot of running around, we managed to get statements drawn up and written evidence copied and got this all to the Town Hall 15 minutes before the deadline.
The hearing begins on the following day and we are told that the evidence which we had submitted at the last minute was too defamatory and ‘put the Council at risk’. The Panel then set about reading out a list of questions which had been raised and the brief and irrelevant answers which had been listed on papers handed out before the hearing began. After a protest from one of those attending, which was given short shrift, the assembled campaigners simultaneously stood up and walked out of the Chamber in disgust, leaving a shaken panel to ponder on whether their tactics may have rather backfired.
Fearing that this was censorship rather than genuine concern for the legal standing of the Council, e:mail traffic became intense. At a private hearing of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 15th March (which turned to a public hearing at the insistence of Councillor Boff) the Chair conceded that, following legal advice, some of the withdrawn documents would be taken into consideration and made public and that all documents were now before the Panel.
So the Panel sat again and we waited for the anticipated whitewash. Only to find that the Committee had decided that they should recommend the immediate repurchase of the Dalston Lane units by Compulsory Purchase Orders, and that Council officers should retain the option to repurchase Tony & Spirit’s shop.
There was intense debate over whether there should be a recommendation to continue the inquiry as soon as the Council reformed in May. Andrew Boff fought hard for a commitment to do so. The 3 (Labour) against 1 (Tory) argument was not won and we now have a few days before the final verdict is announced to persuade the Committee to make a firm recommendation that the past 2 and 1/2 weeks was simply the start of a much wider nquiry into just exactly what went on and who did hat?
Councillor Elaine Battson (Labour – Dalston) – who had een extremely quiet to this point, and even failed to attend when the Dalston Lane evidence was heard – suddenly became very vociferous and repeatedly said that the evidence before the Panel was too weak to be seriously considered so why should there be any further hearings?
We now have to ensure that the Met, the Public Sector Fraud Office and the FSA properly and thoroughly investigate the allegations, which will not go away, and it may well be the case that this can only be achieved by the occupation of Scotland Yard, Wellington House and Canary Wharf! But the truth will come out in the end – to that aim we are totally committed – and all those who have abused their positions to rob the local population and feather their own nests will learn that people power is far greater than their own influential contacts.
Unless this is achieved, there will be Nelson Bakewell’s springing up everywhere and victims like Tony and Spirit will dominate the world’s press for many decades.
The Campaign against property sell-offs has achieved many victories in a few short months. Mounting local support, liaisons across class divides, a six thousand signature petition, worldwide media attention and a full public inquiry which shook the Council to its core.
Corrupt property developers have retracted into their shells and the flack is still falling all around them. Their former associates in positions of power are left wondering how much longer before the shit really hits the fan and we continue to fight for their activities to be fully exposed.
This seems to be the start of something far more powerful than any local protest has ever achieved before, not least because there are Broadway Markets and Dalston Lanes in every London borough and across the Country and beyond.
So the fight goes on and the ballot box results in a few weeks time may well give an indication as to who exactly is winning the war.
Following Hackney Council’s announcement that they are undertaking a feasibility study into the reopening of Haggerston Baths, a Haggerston Baths Building Steering Group has been established. To begin with the Council refused to invite Pool Campaign reps to their meetings. Fortunately, they have since been persuaded to back down and reps are now included on the steering group. Naturally, they have also employed a consultant to look into the future of the building.
It is understood that 3 options will be put to the Council’s cabinet in January. While the Council has publicly committed itself to reopening the building, there is yet no guarantee that it will be reopened as a swimming pool, something that local residents have consistently demanded.
Consultation thus far has not involved those that Hackney Independent feels are a priority in any decision-making. The question therefore remains, when will Hackney Council (if ever) undertake a proper public consultation exercise, one that includes the people that really matter: local tenants and residents?
New Labour talks a good game when it comes to the usual buzzwords: ‘accountability’, ‘transparency’, ‘choice’, resident ‘participation’, local democracy, but the reality is decisions are made beforehand behind closed (cabinet) doors. Local tenants and residents are routinely ignored by these processes, and when they are consulted, the questions are often designed to make it very difficult for people to express their real views and guarantee a positive outcome – in other words asking the wrong questions to get the right answers. However it doesn’t have to be like this.
Hackney Independent calls for the results of the consultation so far to be made public; and for the Council to ask local tenants and residents their opinion of the future of Haggerston Pool before their cabinet makes its decision. Is their failure to conduct any public consultation due to the fact that they know what we want? Are they afraid of the fact that local tenants and residents demand the reopening of the building as a swimming pool, a community facility at affordable prices, without privatisation or luxury flats? Long term we’d like to see public ballots on issues like this, but a proper consultation would be a positive first step towards genuine local democracy.