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.
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.
An edited version of this statement by Hackney Independent member Peter Sutton appeared in the Hackney Gazette on 25th May 2006:
How did we get almost exactly the same council following the elections?
We started with 44 Labour councillors, 9 Tories in Lordship, New River and Springfield, 3 Lib Dems in Cazenove and Andrew Boff representing theTories in Queensbridge. We ended up with 44 Labour councillors, the Tories and Lib Dems holding their wards in Stamford Hill and the Greens taking one seat in Clissold.
What is clear to us is that Labour put no real effort into the 4 wards in Stamford Hill that are still represented by the 9 Tory and 3 Lib Dem councillors. We never see these tame twelve taking on New Labour as they have no major political disagreements with them. They all agree with the ALMO, with privatising council services and with the regeneration/gentrification policies of New Labour. Lib Dem Leader Ian Sharer used to be a Labour councillor and probably would be again if they would let him join. Many of the Tories ran the council jointly with Labour during the Labour-Tory pact 6 years ago This was the time that brought us the Clissold Pool fiasco and the joint agreement to close Haggerston Pool.
Instead Labour’s electoral machine turned its fire on what they saw as threats to the status quo – maverick Lib Dem David Phillips in Hoxton, Tory populist Andrew Boff in Queensbridge and Hackney Independent in Haggerston.
The irony here is that we find it hard to tell the difference between the policies of New Labour, David Phillips and Andrew Boff. They all support privatisation. Boff supports the sale off Council-owned shops, he just thinks the Tories could do it more fairly and competently than Labour. However Phillips and Boff are campaigners and get in the Gazette and get out on the estates promoting their own parties, unlike the tame 12 in Stamord Hill. This is what drew Labour’s fire.
If only New Labour ran Hackney anything like as well as they fight elections. Hoxton, Haggerston and Queensbridge saw more of Jules Pipe and the New Labour leadership in the 4 weeks before the election than we did in the past 4 years.
We fear Labour’s hidden agenda for the next 4 years, that wasn’t in their glossy election leaflets, including:
* turning their Hackney Homes project into a housing association and giving it our council estates
* pushing through more privately-sponsored City Academies
* handing over the East of the borough to Olympic developers, who after 2012 will hand it over to big business
* building private flats on green spaces on our estates
* no new council housing but plenty more luxury flats
* more pay rises for councillors
* planning permission granted to property developers against the wishes of local communities
Is the only opposition to be the Green Party that thinks Hackney’s problems are not enough solar panels or missed recycling targets? Hackney Independent members are already in discussion with groups and individuals around the borough to play our part in opposing the New Labour hidden agenda.
If you want to talk to us about how best we can work together to keep Hackney for the people, contact us.
The last six months have been a hectic time for Hackney Independent. Starting at the end of November last year, our involvement with the occupation at 34 Broadway Market brought onto the national and international stage a level of condemnation for Hackney Council which is usually only reserved for dodgy third world regimes.
Not long after the occupation of Tony’s café was over we commenced the Haggerston local election campaign. The result was a victory for the Labour party with their candidates securing an average 986 votes compared to Hackney Independent’s highest vote of 616.
Labour won every seat in Hackney South & Shoreditch. They faced strong challenges from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Queensbridge and Hoxton, where, aside from a strong personal vote for Andrew Boff, the opposition parties achieved results comparable to Hackney Independent’s in Haggerston.
Of course its particular gutting to be beaten by a Blairite careerist with his snout in the PFI trough; a Trotskyite infiltrator and Cllr. Bright, but Hackney Labour party, feeling seriously challenged by Hackney Independent, threw all their available resources into the campaign.
Labour fought a negative campaign: their main trick being to scream of “chaos” if the Town Hall was to return to being a hung-council.
Most annoying was the dirty leaflet distributed on the day before polling day warning Haggerston residents that “a vote for independent is a vote for the Tory’s”. According to Labour we are under the thumb of the Conservative party!
We were a bit miffed about this as no one person involved in Hackney Independent has ever voted Conservative in their life, let alone been a member.
They also drew in criticism that the H.I. candidates weren’t local, and this was in a leaflet hand-delivered by “local” Labour candidate Barry Buitekant who lives in… wait for it… Upper Clapton!
On polling day itself they had bussed in Labour party activists from all over London, with Jules Pipe himself being present on and off throughout the day.
In his main post-election winning address Mayor Pipe singled out Hackney Independent for particular attention:
‘Voters in Haggerston saw through the nonsense being peddled by Hackney Independent, particularly about Broadway market where they had joined up with local Tories. Residents recognised that they had nothing positive to offer local people. They are now a spent force in Hackney.’
That’s fighting talk Jules!
Of course victory is preferable to coming second place again, but we take heart that our challenge prompted such Labour panic.
While Labour won using fear, lies and manipulation, Hackney Independent stood on a platform of community and solidarity.
We will continue to do so in the future.
For Hackney Independent, post-election plans are to build upon our free newsletter by increasing its size and distribution: as Labour have now publicly labelled us a primary threat to their rule in Hackney, it would be a shame to let them off the hook.
We also need to work out ways of securing regular streams of finance and to expand upon our activist base.
Needless to say, our work with Tenants’ Associations and around such campaigns as Broadway Market and Haggerston swimming pool will continue.
The challenge and the need for such an endeavour is still there. As Tony Blair’s neo-liberalism bites even more, the far-right will gain, and Labour will shrink.
We will work towards building a confident working class independent of the existing political structures, so that we can face the immediate challenges and work towards building a credible long-term strategy.
For those who haven’t given up hope yet we ask you to play a part in Hackney Independent.
From the Hackney Gazette
Re your front page story (1 December, 2005) about the occupation of Francesca’s Café, 34 Broadway Market, I’d like to clarify a few things for your readers. That the local people and their friends and well-wishers have occupied the café for a ‘cause’ is quite correct. They have occupied the building to prevent its demolition in the hope that the café can be returned to Tony, so he can resume his business of 31 years.
The occupation is not therefore a ‘squat’, in the usually understood sense. People (most of whom have never done anything like this before)have been forced to take direct action to attempt to right a wrong that the legal system seems incapable of doing.
But there is another main reason for the occupation: to publicly object to the continued gentrification of the area. Hackney Council is colluding with property developers to clear out the small businesses that local working-class residents rely on, and replace them with shops that cater predominantly for rich newcomers and weekend visitors from the posher parts of Islington. They have sold under-valued properties at a cost of millions of pounds to Hackney Council Tax payers.
This so-called ‘regeneration’ is not of benefit to ordinary, local people. Not only are we poorer for the loss of these publicly-owned commercial properties, but many of the new cafes and restaurants are too expensive to eat in. Tony’s was one of the very few places on the market where people could meet and eat at affordable prices.
Hackney Independent fully supports the occupation and encourages well-wishers to visit the café for a cup of tea to find out more about what is going on.
I was slightly bemused to read Cllr Crowe’s comments about the massive sell off of council properties being down to “legally binding directions from the government”. Can she clarify for us exactly which party was running the government at the time? It is either a Labour council or a Labour governmen to blame, or probably both. As a Labour party member Cllr Crowe’s attempt to pass the buck between the two doesn’t really cut much ice.
Compared to this sort of double-speak, the clear words and actions from the protestors at 34 Broadway Market came as a breath of fresh air, and I offer them my full support.
Letter and Editorial from the Hackney Gazette
In the Gazette article “Homes Shortage Crisis Claim” (20th October 05) MP Meg Hiller is just making the same points she made in the House of Commons on 15th June. Meg wants to see more “affordable, family-sized homes.” What she doesn’t call for is more council housing.
As a newcomer to Hackney affairs, Meg won’t remember this, but we saw estates like Stonebridge and Laburnum being built in Shoreditch by Hackney Council not that long ago. Then the Council told us that the Tory government had stopped council house building. We have had Tony Blair in power for eight and a half years and still we see no new council housing.
Labour are now as opposed to council housing as the Tories ever were.
When people come to see us at Hackney Independent advice surgeries they ask us to help them get a council flat big enough for their family. They never ask for “affordable homes” or “shared ownership.” These schemes are only available to people who are in secure well-paid jobs.
Hackney Independent carried out a door-to-door survey of 100 people in Shoreditch. We asked if people would like to see more council housing and more private housing built in Shoreditch.
Eight out of ten wanted to see more council housing. No-one said only private housing. Most of those who thought we needed both agreed that council housing was more important. While Meg puts out press releases calling for “affordable housing” her own party is busy approving plans for more and more luxury flats in Shoreditch, while trying to sell off as many council estates as it can. You have to judge a party by what is does, not what it says. Labour in Hackney means less council housing and more luxury flats. Hackney Independent campaigns as part of the community to save the council housing we have and to build more council housing for overcrowded tenants and our young people.
Hackney Gazette editorial
‘Sardines in a Can’
The lives of thousands of the borough’s kids are blighted because they live in overcrowded housing. An estimated 9,000 Hackney families suffer severely cramped conditions in households unsuitable for their size, a shock report by homeless charity, Shelter, has revealed. Many sleep in makeshift beds on dining-room, lounge or hallway floors because of lack of space, or have to share a bedroom with their parents – and in some extreme cases teenagers of the opposite sex are forced to share a bedroom. Lack of privacy places stress on family relationships and affects children’s education because they have nowhere to study or do their homework. It is a consequence of a chronic shortage of family-sized social housing.
In the past 20 years, the country’s public housing stock has contracted by more than a third, in part down to the sell-off of homes under the right-to-buy scheme. In an effort to free-up larger properties, tenants in homes too big for their housing needs are being given incentives to move to smaller council accommodation, but it is just tinkering. Sooner or later, society may have to grasp the nettle and accept the somewhat unpalatable reality that nobody has a God-given right to have as many children as they want when resources are scarce and taxpayers are expected to foot the bill. Until then the government needs to make the cash available to build more family-sized council and housing association homes in the borough and end the misery of overcrowding for good.
The residents in the vicinity of the proposed mobile-phone mast in Shepherdess Walk and Sturt Street, Shoreditch, are to be congratulated for making a stand against T-mobile and Hackney Council.
It comes as no surprise that T-mobile is denying that mast radiation poses a risk to public health; and no surprise that Hackney Council is – once again – denying that it is guilty of poor administration. In both cases the script is only too predictable.
Incidentally, I would advise the residents in Shoreditch to ask Jules Pipe if he is prepared to intervene on their behalf. I recall that he pledged to stand shoulder to shoulder on the picket line with the residents of Hawksley Court when they physically blocked a phone company from erecting a mast on their estate two years ago. This was, of course, during his election campaign to become Hackney’s Labour mayor. Is he still prepared to man the barricades, I wonder?
Hackney Independent Working Class Association
(from IWCA national website)
When Diane Abbott criticised Harriet Harman over her choice of schools for her kids, she was applauded for her principles and good sense. How times change. Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney and Stoke Newington, elected to represent one of the capital’s and the country’s poorest areas, has decided that the local state schools aren’t good enough for her son. So instead, master James Abbott is off to the £10,000 a year City of London School.
Trying to justify ditching her principles, she attempted to deny that she had ever had a go at Harman. Unfortunately Abbott’s criticism that Harman had ‘made the Labour Party look as if we do one thing and say another’, is on record. She also tried to shift responsibility for the dramatic U-turn onto her twelve year old son, although later she relented and at least had the courage to own up to it being her decision.
And what about the good sense she showed in trying to do the job she was elected to do; that is represent the residents of Hackney and Stoke Newington? Well she might be able to claim that she is still representing some of them; the ones who have a spare £10,000 a year to spend on school fees. But its pretty clear she’s walked away from the vast majority of those who live in the area, for whom the prospect of having a spare ten grand is about as remote as that of having their own spot on a BBC TV discussion show.
All of this is hypocritical and patronising ‘do as I say, not as I do’ politics of the worst sort. The hypocrisy of a member of the supposedly redder than red Socialist Campaign Group of MPs sending her son to a public school is there for all too see. She even admitted as much herself when she said: ‘It’s absolutely true that it’s inconsistent, to put it mildly, for someone who believes in a fairer society to send their child to a private school. I’ve always believed that private schools prop up the class structure of society. ‘
But the patronising attitude, which says to all those parents in Hackney who don’t have a spare £10,000 knocking about, ‘well the local secondary schools aren’t good enough for my James but they’ll do for your sons and daughters’, is if anything, even more gut wrenching.
Her lack of interest in the day-to-day lives of her constituents was only compounded when, on Radio 4’s Today programme, she claimed that part of the reason, for what she now admitted was her decision, was down to gun crime in Hackney’s secondary schools. What this apparent admission of government failure tells the people of Hackney and Stoke Newington, and in particular the area’s working class residents who don’t have the option of opting out, is that not only does their MP think the schools aren’t educationally good enough but also that they’re physically dangerous as well.
Former Labour minister Gerald Kaufman, seems to have hit on something with his comments that: ‘Diane Abbott, left-wing socialist and wonderful moraliser, says one thing and does another. I hope the people of Hackney take notice of that.’
Maybe they will when they have the opportunity to vote for one of their peers. In the meantime, if an MP of whatever party publicly removed her child from a school on the grounds of race we all know what it would be called. But publicly endorsing social apartheid, which after all is essentially what private education is intended to secure, is a different matter it seems, And if this is acceptable in the field of education then the same principle must apply in other spheres too—housing, health and crime being three that spring to mind.
A government report to be published shortly will show that Middle England receives better treatment from the NHS than that offered to working class people. And this is happening at a time when crime rates in middle class areas is going down, while violent crime in working class communities continues to escalate. Why is this? Because, whether it’s education, law and order or medical treatment, Middle England insists that when it comes down to it their interests are given priority.
It has taken a long time to get here, but all of the above is now politically acceptable largely because all of the three mainstream parties instinctively and unapologetically identify with what is a privileged minority. This is not too surprising when the influential members are, to a man or woman, all members of this same privileged minority.
So, while not denying Gerald Kaufman may have a point, the core contradiction here is not that Diane Abbot is going to send her own child to private school. No, the essential political inconsistency is how she ever came to represent the working class majority in Hackney in the first place.