letter to Hackney Gazette about ITnet

At last!
A solution to the problems of not getting your benefits paid by ITNet. Just move out of the borough to your country retreat!
Unfortunately this is only an option for the likes of Lib Dem Councillor Neil Hughes and not something the majority of us can afford.
Isn’t it about time we had councillors who were prepared to stand their ground and fight for the interests of Hackney’s working class majority ?

Helen Caterwell – letter in Hackney Gazette 21st September

Independent councillor is Shoreditch's way forward

Letter in Hackney Gazette 10th August 2000
We read Myrna Shaw’s letter in the Gazette with interest and would agree that the way forward is to stand independent candidates in the council elections.

It is clear that the four main parties in Hackney are only interested in the middle classes, so we believe it is essential that independent candidates represent the interests of working class people (and of course this includes many pensioners).

With this in mind we are seriously considering standing candidates in the Shoreditch Neighbourhood in the 2002 elections and would welcome discussion with Mrs Shaw – and other interested individuals or tenant’s representatives – in deciding how best to serve the interests of this working class majority.

We would urge anyone who wishes to discuss it to contact us at PO Box 48, 136 Kingsland High Street, E8 2NS

Dan Carter, Hackney Independent Working Class Association

Extracts from responses to above letter

“I don’t mince my words and will never speak diplomatic, sugar pill English. I told Sedgemore the middle-class had won and that was England done. If anyone broke English working class values it was Labour. At least from the time of Brown and Wilson, if not earlier, the old streets were torn down in ‘slum clearance’ to make way for the ‘inner city.’ Labour did nothing to preserve anything that was truly and not just ‘trades union working class’, and they still don’t.”

“I read your letter Gazette letter with interest. But I do have my doubts! The campaign of course would be the thing, but what chances do you think you have of obtaining a poll tax type putsch in Shoreditch?”

“I do not mean to be negative, but it is going to be a long hard slog, with a large element of distrust of the organisers the first hurdle to overcome.”

“It’s about time someone stood up for working class interests. Labour abandoned us twenty years ago. In Hoxton we’ve tried the Liberals and even the Tories. I’m prepared to give you a go.”

“I agree with standing in the next elections, and there’s still two years to prepare for it. Couldn’t you stand in Clapton as well?”

“Standing for the working classes alone is divisive. Although I own my own home and run a business, I want my streets kept clean and a low council tax just as much as my cleaner does….”

"Colonial times" in N16 Magazine

This gem featured in the “N16 magazine”, a free mag with adverts for upmarket restaurants and various “witty” pieces:

You could rename N16 “Colonial Times” because that’s the truth of it. Or “How to turn a working class area into your local village”. Your rag makes me puke! It’s a pat on the back for how successfully the middle classes have swarmed in. And your obsession with the 73 bus! Sure, it’s big and red and maybe a little fantasy gets projected – but for chrissakes it’s just a bus! You walk around Hackney like it’s an old curiosity shop. The letter in your last issue said it all – “an interesting cultural mix of people who appear to live alongside one another harmoniously”. We’re not schoolchildren or there to entertain some fantasy.

A woman said to me in the park once that she wouldn’t let her kids watch Postman Pat because there weren’t any black people in it, and I looked around the playground and all I could see was “wellys” (people from Tunbridge Wells). You’re either squatting and calling yourselves anarchists, or just plain buying up the place. You talk as if it’s a community without acknowledging the fact that you destroyed an ailing community to get what you want. A friend was outcast from a playgroup because she wanted to send her kid to private school. One woman said “I’d rather send my little Harry to a Stokey school and rub shoulders with thieves than send him private”. You strut around like you’re street hip. You even get Ali G’s jokes, but it takes a bit more than sticking little Milo in an Arsenal shirt to be a fan.

Please excuse my lack of grammar, only I’m not pretending. Put that in your e-mail and freebase it!
Yours most angrily
D. Kidmon
PS Have a lovely Festival

IWCA reply to above letter

I agree with what D Kidmon wrote in the last edition of N16 – your magazine should be renamed “Colonial Times.” It is a magazine for people who spend holidays “up the Dordogne in a camper van” (p18) or like Sally Watson (p8), who you quote as saying that she is having such a problem finding a private nursery for Georgia and Tabatha that she “may have to move to Highgate just to find one.” The problem is that the Watsons will be replaced by more rich young people who will move in and continue to take over what pubs and cafes we have left, and show off to us about it in the pages of N16. Your coverage of the mobile phone mast issue could have been based around the magnificent resistance put up by the Tenants’ Association at Hawksley Court, but instead gives them just three lines compared to the Council’s two paragraphs, while worrying about the effect on house prices.

As a political organisation we wouldn’t put it the same way as D Kidmon, but he is talking about the effects of the “social cleansing” of Hackney. As the middle class takes over more and more of the Borough, the IWCA will continue to seek to involve and represent what is still Hackney’s working class majority.

Anyone wanting to get in touch can contact us at Box 48 136 Kingsland High St, E8 2NS, or you can look at our web site on www.hackneyiwca.fsnet.co.uk

Peter Sutton, Hackney Independent Working Class Association

IWCA letter in response to articles on ITNet in Hackney Gazette

Your stories in last week’s Gazette on the ITNet fiasco raise a couple of interesting points but perhaps a couple more could be taken into account as ITNet’s £70 million contract is just the tip of the iceberg. The company made over £10 million profit last year and one of its directors, Bridget Blow, made herself a tidy £289,000 after all her bonuses and benefits were taken into account. It’s almost insulting to think of the contrast between Ms. Blow and the people of Hackney (and Islington too) who have suffered at the hands of this private company, living on run down estates and having to wait months for the money we’re entitled to, while the directors of ITNet pop the champagne corks at their AGM and laugh all the way to the bank.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised; after all, private companies set out to make a make a profit and Hackney Council should have realised that before jumping into bed with one of them. If, as it seems, there’s no way out of the contract now or penalties that can be imposed on the firm for its disastrous performance, one thing we can do is offer support to tenants who’ve been affected. The IWCA has run one successful benefits advice surgery on the Geffrye Estate so far and is set to run more over the borough in the next few months, while the group Whose Benefit ? has been set up by victims of ITNet and can be contacted at PO Box 55, 136 Kingsland High Street, London, E8 2NS. The council and the company they’ve shacked up with may want ordinary people to feel powerless but there is a lot we can do.

Dan Carter
Hackney IWCA

gap between council workers and management

“Speaking to a road sweeper I discovered that there is a huge gap between workers, who have pride in the Borough, and officials and management, who are not Borough residents. He said workers could only see to complaints when they had an order to do so from above. As I am sure that many workers in the Borough are aware of the conditions of the roads, I can only assume that the staff who sit in Shoreditch have little interest in the workers in Stoke Newington.”
Stoke Newington resident and cyclist Norman Bright takes on the Council’s senior managers
(Gazette 1 June 2000).

But our councillors, who do live in the Borough, are no better.

New Deal letters

The letters page of the Hackney Gazette has recently covered the spat between Carole Young (former TA chair of Wenlock Barn & well-known pro-sell off member of the New Deal Board) and the IWCA following our coverage of the New Deal meeting where proposals to demolish 822 council homes were chucked out.

Carole Young accused the IWCA of “spinning” the story (like New Labour!), claiming that demolition was never a real option and that she was proud to see so many local people taking part in the decision-making processes of the New Deal – not quite the same as her response on the night itself, as Tony Butler points out below!

Spin Doctoring?

– an IWCA member responds to Carole Young’s attack on the IWCA

It’s good to see Carole Young agreeing with so many of the IWCA’s points about the New Deal’s plans to demolish 822 council homes in Shoreditch, but we’re not the ones spinning the story. If the option to demolish the council stock was just looked at to fulfil government requirements, why did the New Deal officers put it forward as their “preferred option” ? People turned up at the meeting not because of the New Deal’s record of community involvement and transparency (both of which we’d like to see more of) but because they felt their homes were at risk.

If anyone’s doing any spinning it’s Anna Eagar and her team who’re doing the rounds of the estates with glossy brochures and displays trying to convince tenants to have their blocks demolished and let the developers move in; this might seem an attractive option to someone who’s lived in a rundown block for years but it’s one with no guarantee that tenants who move out will be council tenants when (or if) they return. If you hear any rumours of the New Deal targeting your block, phone the IWCA on 07000 752752. We will help you to organise to stop them, and to campaign to get improvements carried out to your block.

Dan Carter
Hackney IWCA

Crawling out of the Woodwork

– a Wenlock Barn tenant responds to Carole Young’s attack on the IWCA

Contrary to Carole Young’s views in the letters page of 15 February, the fact is 100 people gate-crashed, and were not officially invited to this historical decision making meeting on the future of our homes. Carole’s reaction on the night, far from being happy was “it’s funny how people are now crawling out of the woodwork” (as witnessed by everyone there).

As a Council tenant in Shoreditch I would like to say thank you to some of the New Deal Board members who have consistently opposed the plans to sell off our estates. I would also like to say that if it wasn’t for the work of people like the IWCA in warning that the New Deal might be a “RAW DEAL” then most people wouldn’t have known what was going on. Where have the other political parties been in the last couple of years? Carole Young should get used to big turnouts at every meeting when her Board considers demolishing or selling off our homes.

Tony Butler
Wenlock Barn Estate

letters in the Hackney Gazette, January 2000

“The New Deal and the council want Pinnacle to take over the [Kingsland]estates. The New deal wants it to happen because their whole funding plan is based on Pinnacle borrowing the money to do up blocks across Shoreditch and then sticking the rent up. The Council can’t wait top get shot of its responsibilities.”
Haggerston tenant, Carl Taylor, Hackney Gazette 6 January 2000

“Hackney has been in a chaotic mess, run by a ragbag coalition of Tories and Lib-Dems, who have sacked staff, thrown away money on redundancy payments and neglected our streets and run down the area by scrimping on repairs to homes and schools.”
New Labour Councillor Sunday Ogunwobi, Hackney  Gazette 13 January 2000.

So no change from when Labour ran the Council then?

Hackney Gazette letters 1999

“Class crusaders have called on tenants to fight off a yuppie invasion of Shoreditch and South Hackney. The Hackney Independent Working Class Association fears that Hackney residents will be run out of the area and replaced by yuppies and City business folk. “there is nothing wrong with new homes, shops and bars, but we should have new homes for our community and shops and bars that charge prices we can afford and that employ local people stated IWCA spokesman Peter Sutton.”
Half page article on the IWCA, Gazette 2 September 1999

“Two residential homes for the elderly have been demolished to make way for new developments and libraries all over the Borough have been closed down. I don’t know about regenerating Hackney. Degenerating Hackney seems more appropriate.”
Not just in Shoreditch. Stamford Hill resident Milli Bierman , Gazette 16 September 1999

“Who do you think the new homes will be for? Overcrowded families on Wenlock Barn? Local young people who need a place of their own? The answer is that it will be more high-priced flats for City workers – while our young people are forced to move out of the area. Is this the new deal Shoreditch was promised?”
Shoreditch tenant, John Beverley Gazette, 14 October 1999

New Deal supporter Winnie Ames “says that Shoreditch tenants will be able to vote on all options for their homes under the New Deal. Presumably this includes the option to remain with Hackney Council and have it fulfil its obligations to carry out much-needed repairs. Or is this not what the New Deal is all about?”
Haggerston tenant, Carl Taylor asks the right question of the New Deal, Gazette 21 October 1999

“The town hall square development sums up the priorities of Hackney Council. Councillors from all four political parties will be able to stroll around the piazza, go inside the town hall and vote to sell off more of our estates and then relax again in the late-night café/bars. Over their cappuccinos, they can swap stories about town hall gossip as easily as most of them swap political parties – all safely under the gaze of CCTV cameras. It’s a shame life is not as easy for the rest of us, who live in the houses, use the schools and depend on the services that they are supposed to be running.”
Colin Robinson, Gazette 18 November 1999 on the £50 million Town Hall Square development.

“That [Lib Dem] Councillor Bentley should defend any project spending on regenerating the Town Hall Square when the council is not only cutting services, but also charging the elderly and sick for “community care”, illustrates the vast distance there is between the priorities of the council and the priorities of the people of Hackney.”
Myrna Shaw of the Hackney Pensioners’ Convention, Gazette 25 November 1999

“Kevin Sugrue. Head of gentrification agency Renaisi thinks that “sons and daughters policy providing affordable housing to stop young working class people from moving out” is an option that he would consider. This is surprising, since his New Labour bosses have stated that we are all middle class now.”
Terry Jeffery, Gazette 30 December 1999