The meeting was organised by Hoxton & Haggerston Fightback to enable TRAs to come together and discuss proposals for a public enquiry into the council’s financial incompetence and their insistence that it should be the working class of the borough who once again bail them out.
Fred from Whiston & Goldsmith TRA put the case for a public enquiry, while Noreen from St Mary’s and Anna Maria from Kingsland TRA insisted that tenants had to resist the council’s ‘logic’ that we should all pay more to receive less.
A motion proposing a rent freeze (ie that tenants should withhold the rent increase) was put and agreed in principle. TRAs will discuss the proposals and report back on 12 March to discuss what can be done. Hackney Independent also supports the call for a public enquiry and a rent freeze. If there is widespread agreement for it on our estates we will be involved in the campaign.
Londoners have been hit by a “Hackney tax” following the borough’s collapse into financial chaos, it emerged today. Figures released by the Mayor reveal that the disastrous state of council tax collection the east London borough caused an increase in his precept – the slice of council tax allocated to the Mayor – of an additional one per cent. The London Assembly yesterday voted to allow him to raise the precept by 22.6 per cent. The Mayor has promised to use the extra money to pay for 1050 extra police officers and to fund developments in technology and staffing in the Met. Last year the borough estimated that it expected to collect 96 per cent of the £54 million it could levy in council tax. But its performance has been much worse. The borough is on course to collect just 68 per cent, which means it will be £15 million short. This has in turned impacted upon the “council tax fund”, a pool of reserves resulting from surpluses made by all of the London boroughs.
GLA officials calculated they would receive £2.3 million from the fund and would not have to raise so much through the precept. But after the Hackney crisis, the GLA was instead forced to pay £700,000 into the fund. The Mayor compensated by raising his demand on the precept.
The revelation is embarrassing for the GLA’s deputy Tory leader Eric Ollerenshaw, who is also joint leader of Hackney council. In a statement with Cllr Jules Pipe, who chairs the borough’s finance committee, he blamed the low level of council tax collection on a contractor. “We want to ensure every penny is paid so we have funds to run services. However, given the problems caused last year we do not pretend that this will be easy.” But they said Hackney should not be blamed for the scale of the increase. “While our council tax collection does have a small effect on the overall precept, this is in no way comparable to the large increases to the precept proposed by the Mayor.”
note: Patrick McCrudden has been in touch and we urge others who are interested in standing independent working class candidates to contact us.
Why Should We Pay ? – letter in Hackney Gazette 23rd January 2001
The following letter appeared in this week’s edition of the Gazette. It wasn’t sent by an IWCA member but echoes many of the things we’ve been saying about standing independent candidates against the middle class councillors we have now. If the writer of the letter is serious in his points here, we would urge him to get in touch.
Hackney Council, its present concillors, and managers etc. want to increase tenants’ rent by up to £8 a week, plus increase our council tax by £84. What services are we residents in Hackney really getting and why are we the people/ residents/ workers in Hackney having to foot the bill for the council’s mismanagement ? Why should the people of Hackney suffer and pay, especially those on low incomes ?
Max Caller’s on a nice little earner, but I bet he’s not taking a pay cut. No, but these people who provide services will take pay cuts. This is why I am in full support of strike action…This is what all tenants, residents and council workers should do to those bosses and councillors in Hackney Town Hall – direct action, residents’ action groups, non-payment of council tax. Enough of this softly, softly approach. It’s time the people of Hackney got off their backsides and take the councillors and bosses by the neck and tell them “you’re not making us pay for your mistakes and incompetence”.
What we really need is to elect independent candidates who will stand in the next local elections on anti-cuts/anti-corruption. This is why I and othyer sactive in Hackney have decided to stand against the Liberal/Labour/Conservative coalition. Residents of Hackney – it’s time to stand up and come to the call to arms. The councillors voted in the cuts to jobs and services, so dump your rubbish on the councillors’ doorsteps.
Patrick McCrudden, Stamford Hill
Power to the People
letter in Hackney Gazette 8.2.2001
As the letters page of your paper shows, more and more people in Hackney are fed up with how our lives are being made a misery by the incompetence and political careerism of councillors who “run” the borough. Some of your correspondents have called for marches, demonstrations and produced the odd snappy slogan, but where have these things got us in the past ? I was more interested to see Patrick McCrudden’s letter in last week’s Gazette which called for independent candidates to be stood in council elections.
The IWCA has long argued for this, but it is only part of a bigger picture of community politics and can’t work just on its own; a recent event might highlight this. Two weeks ago, around 100 tenants from all over Shoreditch attended a meeting of the New Deal where proposals to demolish entire estates were being put forward. At short notice, and with impressive self-organisation, these people forced the New Deal to back down: a display of the power that working class people can have when we work together (a fuller report is available on the news page).
If we are serious about changing Hackney for the better for its working class majority, then we have to be serious about how we approach it. Standing candidates is one part of that, but those standing should be prepared to get involved in the issues that working class communities themselves feel are important, not just appear overnight and hope to pick up a few votes the next day. We would be genuinely interested to hear what Patrick McCrudden is proposing.
Dan Carter (Hackney IWCA)
Despite the appointment of new broom managing director, Max Caller, who last year vowed to “Hackney’s house in order”, it is still business as usual in the benighted east london borough.
In the council where Paedophile social worker, Mark Trotter was allowed to carry on abusing children for years in the 1980s until he died of AIDS, a senior officer involved in the care of children and subject of a police investigation has been quietly allowed to resign.
Meanwhile Caller has been sitting for 4 months on a report by borough solicitor Chris Hinde into allegations of corruption in the Stamford Hill planning committee involving the Borough’s Tory Mayor Joe Lowenstein, first aired in Eye 981, July 1999. The report must be a thorough one. It took Hinde, who coincidentally used to be secretary of the former Dalston city partnership regeneration quango, of which Lobenstein was a director, more than a year to produce.
At least some Hackney officers are quicker off the mark. After NUT members at just one Hackney school, Stoke Newington comprehensive, voted in December not to cross picket lines duringa one-day strike by non-teaching unions against proposed budget cuts and redundancies, their general secretary, Doug McAvoy wrote to them pointing out that such a vote endorsed unlawful secondary action.
Officers in Hackney’s education department then copied McAvoy’s letter, with the recipient school’s name blanked out, and faxed it to every school in the borough, giving the impression that McAvoy was on the side of the local education authority in a dispute he in fact wanted to keep out of. That’s the kind of enterprise Hackney needs!
With the financial crisis in Hackney looking worse than it first appeared, we now get news that council tax is set to rise by up to 10%. Reports in last week’s Hackney Gazette put the council’s projected debt for next year at £76 million, much greater than the £22 million shortfall this year and the rise in council tax seems to be a direct result of this.
Of course, people should pay towards local services if they can afford them, but what exactly do we get ? The benefits service was disastrously farmed out to ITNet (who are still running it), the education service looks like going the same way and rubbish collection has now also gone over to a private contractor. If local people were actually getting a decent service there would be far less resentment.
In the leters page of the Hackney Gazette, the issue of withholding council tax has been raised. This is a possible tactic in the future but the idea should be discussed in tenant associations and community groups first.
In another blow to Hackney Council, a report published by OFSTED (the government inspectors of schools) criticises the education service in the borough, stating “Our conclusion to this report is simple and straightforward, but deeply depressing: We do not believe that Hackney local authority has the capacity to provide a secure, stable context for continuous educational improvement.”
What this means for Hackney’s children is not yet clear, but there is already talk of all education services being privatised. Of course, the whole issue of education is one that means a lot to any parent, but the situation for working class parents is bleak in the wake of this report. While middle class parents can afford private nurseries (and even have the option of moving out of the Borough before little Toby has to mix with the rough kids), working class families have to use what facilities the borough provides.
Hackney Council has not supported its schools because our middle class councillors and senior officers do not use them. What’s proposed is privatisation of the Local Education Authority, and if education goes the same way as the benefits service under ITNet, there will be bad times ahead. In the case of ITNet, the service provided by the council was already poor; the council privatised it and ITNet made it worse. Privatisation won’t give more support to our schools.
For more information click on the link here: BBC news report
Click on the links below for national and local coverage of the Hackney Council crisis:
An Audit Commission Report published this week has slammed Hackney Council for its dismal record on providing services to the community. The inspection was carried out by the Audit Commission with assistance from District Audit, OFSTED and the Social Services Inspectorate (SSI), and concludes that Hackney has very serious financial and service delivery problems which the Council does not have the capacity to solve without additional help.
The full text of the report can be found at http://www.bestvalueinspections.gov.uk/news/press16_hackney.htm
While it’s easy to say “we told you so” the report does offer an insight into just how mired in scandal and incompetence the council has been, and still is if the next round of cuts is anything to go by.
We must elect councillors who truly represent the working class people of the borough, not this group of self-serving careerists.
Hundreds of people demonstrated against Hackney Council on Monday November 6th in two separate events. At lunchtime, binmen staged a go-slow convoy, while in the evening protesters gathered outside the Town Hall to voice their anger at cuts in vital services. The sight of lines of riot police protecting councillors from their own community would be an eye opener if in fact the councillors truly represented that community, but as we point out later, that’s half the problem.
Despite the demonstration, the Labour-Tory coalition approved the package of cuts which looks likely to involve job losses, wage cuts for council workers and the privatisation of the rubbish collection service. Clearly the council has not learned a thing from the ITNet disaster and is now handing over the streets themselves to a private company! While the Lib Dems and Greens voted against the cuts, let’s not forget that across the border in Islington, the Lib Dems are happy to impose their own cuts package and still have ITNet running their benefits services.
IWCA members were present at the demonstration on Monday. While many in the crowd were local people affected directly by the cuts, many were also there in an attempt to sell left wing papers and recruit new members. We have to be certain that any resistance to the cuts comes from those who are most affected – those at the sharp end when the nurseries and schools start to feel the bite, when the residential homes start to get squeezed – Hackney’s working class majority. We shouldn’t get dragged into tactics that have failed before – endless marches, rallies and demonstrations.
The IWCA believes that the way forward is working class rule in working class areas. This means, for a start, representing our own community on the council, not letting middle class career politicians ruin our lives. Demonstrations are one way of showing anger, but if we are in this for the long haul, we have to organise on a community level and this is what the IWCA has been doing since it was set up in Hackney. It’s all too simple to hold demonstration after demonstration and rally after rally – the numbers will gradually wither away and the council will still be in charge. Until we replace those in power with people who represent the working class majority, we will always have this problem.
Letter to the Hackney Gazette, 9th November 2000
Has anyone noticed that the building work has started on the Town Hall Square development? The council says it can’t afford our essential services, but can bring in money for this kind of thing. Our middle class councillors want to be able to grab a late night coffee after a hard night voting through the latest round of cuts. At the same time the latest block of yuppie flats is just being finished off in Shoreditch, while the council says it has no money for essential repairs on our estates, and is cutting the estate cleaning budget by £860,000.