Hackney IWCA Slams Hackney Council's MORI poll

Community activists from Hackney IWCA (Hackney Independent as of summer 2004) today criticised Hackney Council over “thousands of pounds wasted” on a MORI survey. The council have employed researchers from MORI, the well-known opinion pollsters, to carry out a survey on people’s views of council services on Hackney’s estates.

Hackney IWCA spokesman Peter Sutton stated “The council has its priorities all wrong. While they’re slashing the budgets of voluntary groups and closing down our public facilities, they obviously think they can waste thousands of pounds on this type of PR exercise”.

He added “If Hackney Council really want to know what people think of them and their services they only have to listen to the tenants on the neglected estates of the borough. Our own surveys indicate that over 80% of people think Hackney Council do a bad job and that one of the biggest concerns is the increasing lack of facilities”.

Hackney IWCA has been engaged in a survey (costing nothing!) for the last three months over 20 estates in south Hackney and Shoreditch, asking local people what their concerns are. Topping the list of issues is crime and anti-social behaviour, closely followed by worries over the lack of local facilities – the same local facilities that the council have put on their hitlist to be sold off.

Peter Sutton concludes “Hackney Council are a disgrace. We never see our councillors on our estates anyway, but now they’re paying other people to come round for them – to find out information most people could tell them for nothing”.

Letter in Hackney Gazette 27th September

Your political coverage over the last few weeks has been excellent. We have read about the butchery of funding to groups that support Hackney’s most vulnerable, while councillors give themselves and their corporate friends more of our money – often in secret meetings. We have discovered – as if we didn’t know already – that you need to earn on average £57,000 pa to buy a home in London’s poorest borough, and that the majority of households earn far less than £30,000. Meanwhile, as youth services are decimated, youth crime escalates. And privatised workers – the more the better according to our McLabour bigwigs – see their working conditions and living standards plummet.

Put it all together and you can see what kind of Hackney our “leaders” are creating for us. Of course, they will say, our sacrifices are necessary to save Hackney from itself. But who is it being saved for? Certainly not the majority, when all we can expect is more deprivation and exploitation. To return “the usual suspects” – Labour, Tory, LibDem or Green – would be like those proverbial turkeys voting for Christmas.

Carl Taylor, Suffolk Estate.

Hackney – The Takeover Begins

In announcing the measures Stephen Byers Secretary of State for Local Government said:
“The Government is simply not prepared to let the present situation continue. It is unacceptable that people who live, or work in Hackney should have to suffer poor services because of the council’s corporate failure. The package of measures the Government is announcing today is designed to protect and improve the key services and ensure the council tackles its budget deficit.

“I have directed Hackney to produce a budget strategy to start the process of getting them back into balance. My Department will be writing separately to the council about how they can continue to work to return to financial stability, without the help of Government resources, at the earliest possible time. To assist, the council’s leadership has agreed to appoint an independent person to monitor financial progress.

“It is now for Hackney’s elected members and senior staff to ensure that people in Hackney see very big changes. It will involve tough decisions to tackle the years of failure and it will be painful but the Government is clear it must happen. Hackney Council cannot be allowed to fail its people again.

Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said:
“Hackney’s residents deserve a good quality benefits service, which has been lacking for too long. No one should have to wait several months for their Housing and Council Tax Benefit claims to be paid. Poor service affects some of the most vulnerable people. It can also affect the financial positions of Hackney’s social and private landlords.

“I have therefore set Hackney a challenging direction to clear its long-standing backlog of work by the end of this year. I shall expect them to do this to acceptable standards and without detriment to current and new work. My Department is working closely with Hackney and has supported them in rebuilding their benefits service. They have made an encouraging start. The momentum must be maintained. We shall continue to monitor the situation closely”

Estelle Morris Secretary of State for Education and Skills said:
“This direction will enable Hackney to establish a new body to be responsible for the management and delivery of education services in the Borough, so as to provide much needed financial and management stability. We have already, with Hackney Council, appointed a joint team to identify the optimum arrangements for the structure and role of this new body. Once this team has reported at the end of September we will support the local authority in swiftly putting in place new arrangements, designed to promote and maintain high standards in education for everyone in Hackney.”

Margaret Beckett Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:
“Hackney must improve their dismal recycling record and their poor overall performance on waste collection services so that residents get a quality service at a price they can afford. To make this happen the Council must secure the investment that this service desperately needs, raise public awareness about the need for changes in the local culture in the handling of waste, and ensure local people are able to recycle their waste.”

Health Minister Jacqui Smith said:
“It is vital for some of the most vulnerable people in Hackney that social services continue to deliver and improve their services. This direction will require Hackney Council to work with the local NHS to review services for older people and mental health services to ensure that they are delivering best value.

The Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) has been working with Hackney. We have seen some progress in social services and are keen to see that this continues – so that the people of Hackney get the services they need and deserve. We will maintain this support and monitor improvements carefully.”

Ollerenshaw Points the Finger At Tenants

Tory Councillor Eric Ollerenshaw was quoted in Inside Housing this week (14th September 2001) saying that Council tenants owe the Council £20.9 million in rent. He admits that “part” of the problem is how bad the Council are at paying housing benefit. Other reasons he doesn’t consider are the lack of well paid jobs available to most people in Hackney, and the Council’s useless housing management system that has let tenants get so far behind with their rents.

Councillor Ollerenshaw, of course, also fails to look at the other side of the story. Some tenants are behind with their rent, but what about all the outstanding repairs that the Council are legally obliged to carry out but continually fail to do? It’s a lot easier to point your finger at Council tenants than it is to face up to your own responsibilities.

Community Activists Set Up Spoof Estate Agents

In an imaginative stunt to draw attention to Hackney Council’s Hitlist and the axing of vital facilities in the borough, community activists in Hackney have set up a spoof estate agents named after the council’s own “advisers” Nelson Bakewell. We reprint the activists’ news release below:

We have just squatted 52 Stoke Newington High Street, Hackney, and turned it into a spoof estate agent. We hope that you will come by and visit us over the next two days (Thursday and Friday).

Over 50 community properties will be on display there all are in danger of being sold, privatised, or are now suffering serious cuts that threaten their very survival. The Estate Agent will be open for 2 days only at this venue. We will be inviting both Hackney councillors and Nelson Bakewell visit us to explain to Hackney residents, the so far secret details, behind the sell offs. We are inviting the media to come down and ask questions too. We were recently shown the ‘exempt’ minutes from a recent council meeting. It lists over 130 Council owned properties to be assessed for sale as part of their ‘disposals programme’. It is very broad based and includes community centres, adventure playgrounds, allotments, nurseries and shops, as well as 100’s of houses (some items contain multiple buildings).By opening the Estate Agent we aim to make public the extent to which Hackney council is systematically selling off and closing down our community services without any accountability to the residents and service providers in the borough. Feel free to come in and tell us what you think of Hackney Council, have a cup of tea and check out the many community properties that are on display.

Hoxton Hall on Council Hitlist

More news is coming out about the Council’s proposed Hitlist for Hackney – the list of facilities due to be sold off or have their funding slashed as part of the Council’s cost-cutting measures. We will print the full list in the next week , but already the Hackney Gazette has run a story on some of the targeted sites and services. Among those at risk are the Apples and Pears play area on Pearson Street, and Hoxton Hall – more details below:

HACKNEY COUNCIL have finally made decisions about the funding of groups like Hoxton Hall and they have proposed a cut of £16,065 to our grant for the current year. In a full year it would amount to £32,130.

They have said they will not provide funding for our Lifelong Learning programme – the classes and courses which 500 people a week attend. The Council has serious financial problems, but centres like Hoxton Hall are valuable resources for the borough, providing creative activities and services for all. The Council’s short-term financial solution will cause long term damage. Once lost, centres like Hoxton Hall cannot be replaced. This decision is to be ratified at a Council Regeneration Committee meeting at 7.30pm on Thursday 13th September.

Taking the Shine off Pinnacle's Glossy Picture

Roger Tayor of JSS Pinnacle paints a glossy picture of how the company could secure more work for its profit-driven ventures (Inside Housing June 15). The reality of its existing operations in the Shoreditch Neighbourhood in Hackney is more prosaic. Despite being in the area for over two years, it has failed to significantly improve the performance of Shoreditch neighbourhood (judging by the published key performance indicators) in relation to the rest of the housing management service.

Readers need no reminding that Hackney Council provides the most expensive service which is substantially below par, so JSS Pinnacle does not realy have to try very hard to do better.

In addition, it allegedly managed to overspend its repairs budget by around £600,000. The council, without consulting other residents, decided to generously allow JSS Pinnacle to pay back that deby over two years. This year, again without specifically consulting residents (the item was hidden in a turgid committee report), the council agreed to wipe the slate clean, as it would take too long to pay back and damage Shoreditch tenants’ interests.

This is an interesting point. When JSS Pinnacle make profits, the company gets to keep its ‘return’ on capital, they are not spread round the borough. When it allegedly overspends, the council spreads the losses over the HRA [the name of the budget for day-to day spending oncouncil housing]. Is it possible to know what JSS Pinnacle really makes on its Hackney operation? My advice to others is don’t touch them with a bargepole.

John Calderon. Chair, Dalston Neighbourhood Panel.
Tenant leader and the Chair of the former Hackney Tenants Federation (FOHTRA) takes the fight into the house journal of the housing professionals, Inside Housing, 6 July

Council to Close and Privatise Nurseries

News from the Hackney Fightback campaign –

3 Hackney Council nurseries (Fernbank, St. Johns & Wetherall) have been recommended for closure and/or privatisation in a recent Best Value draft proposal. Two community nurseries are also to lose their council funding and thus face closure.

As predicted in the last Hackney Independent and backed up this week in the Hackney Gazette, the council are planning a massive round of sell-offs of council property. Part of this plan is to get rid of Atherdon Nursery in Laura Place , which has been occupied by protesters since its closure, but other nurseries and day centres are all under threat too

Thursday 28th June 5.15pm @ St.Johns Nursery

Crooked Councillors Sent Down

Two Hackney councillors convicted of electoral fraud – according to some reports the biggest fraud in British electoral history – have been sent to jail. Isaac Leibowitz (Conservative) and Zev Lieberman (Lib Dem) were convicted of forgery and conspiracy to defraud and given sentences of 6 and 4 months respectively.

In the murky world of Hackney politics, it hardly comes as a surprise that the big parties are up to no good behind the scenes and might serve as a reminder to local campaigners in the area that we shouldn’t expect the middle class parties to play fair when their political futures are at stake. Of course, the biggest electoral fraud of all is that the major parties can claim to represent Hackney’s working class majority.

Hackney IWCA to Distribute 15,000 Local Newsletters in March

Hackney IWCA (Hackney Independent as of summer 2004) has started distributing 15,000 copies of its newsletter, the Hackney Independent, across Hoxton, Haggerston and De Beauvoir. The Hackney Independent is now broadsheet size and has a circulation bigger than the Hackney Gazette.

The main issues covered are:

1) The crisis in Hackney Council – with a lead article on how the Council are putting EVERYTHING up for sale, and an interview with Dave Mackey, Vice Chair of the Hackney Tenants’ Convention.2) Harwood Court – the block that fought back. We look at how Hackney Independent was able to initiate a succesful campaign to bring huge benefits to one Shoreditch tower block – and foil the New Deal officers plans to demolish the block3) ITNet sacked – so where’s our benefits? Hackney Independent’s Carl Taylor gives advice on getting your housing benefits pair, whoever is responsible now.

4) Working class rule in working class areas – interview with Hackney Independent co-ordinator Peter Sutton looking at the New Deal, gentrification and the work of Hackney Independent.

This is the third Hackney Independent newsletter and each time the size of the newsletter has grown and it has covered a bigger area. The Hackney Independent is the only newsletter in the area that counters what is in the professionally-produced newsletters put out by the Council, Pinnacle and the New Deal. No other political organisation puts out a newsletter in Shoreditch outside of elections.

Hackney Independent, Spring 2001 issue (pdf format)

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