Hackney Council consult on rent increases (for extra services) but they do not consult the tenants on the extra rent they collect. For instance rents go up to put in central heating and tenants agree to a rent increase of £1. The Council then put on an extra rent of £2.60. So the rent (increase) would then be £3.60 not the agreed £1. This means hardship for tenants on low wages, pensioners and those who are disabled that are not on housing benefit as these people have to pay full rent and council tax. The Shoreditch New Deal Trust Board made a policy to help council tenants to become leaseholders, why don’t they make a policy to help council tenants with the Council and government MP’s heartless rent policies.
John Skeet, member of Shoreditch Tenants’ Association.
Shoreditch TA ask a good question. We think the answer is that the New Deal Board, with a few honourable exceptions, are more interested in selling-off council tenancies than helping council tenants. Only five of the 12 “community” representatives are staying as council tenants – despite three quarters of the homes in the New Deal being council tenants.
I have to criticise the newsletter/New Deal Trust. (They) seem to give too much space to those people who find fault with everything new. I find that too much time is spent moaning about the growth in restaurants and bars etc…. These bring in money some of which is spent in local shops and pubs. It’s not surprising that new people to the area prefer to go to the newer bars etc some in the new deal area are so unfriendly to anything new, verging on the hostile.
Chris Nelson, local resident and businessman.
We wonder why…
October’s New Deal magazine carries an article by the Board’s Vice Chair, Clayeon McKenzie. Clayeon is on record as a leading opponent of stock transfer, but his article is written on behalf of the New Deal, giving their response to a recent consultation survey. Below are extracts from the article:
“An overwhelming 93% of you want to remain council tenants, and not sold-off to any stock transfer landlords, including those that are ‘Community’ based. We all know how useless Hackney has been over the years, but practically everyone felt that they should be made responsible (at least in part) for putting things right, by bringing the long overdue improvements to our homes. Nevertheless, transfer is still under serious consideration by the Trust.
“While insisting that there should be no change of landlord, nearly two thirds of people wanted Shoreditch to have more control of its own resources and destiny. This can be achieved with the Council as our landlord.”
“More than four out of five Council tenants in Shoreditch just want their existing homes to be refurbished to a standard that they feel is acceptable. The huge majority (93%) don’t want to be pushed out of the area.”
“It will be the New Deal’s task to respect (not second guess) your undeniable views, which you have so clearly stated. We must ensure that the Shoreditch people’s expectations are truly reflected in any bid put to central Government for our homes. We will not forget you.”
We want to hear what people have to say about this article. Can the New Deal deliver what Clayeon says they can deliver? E-mail your views to email@example.com and look out for this debate on our website.
This is the full text of the article printed in the New Cross New Deal magazine. The published version has been edited and the magazine can be contacted on 0800 096 7046.
At the same time as the New Deal was planned for Shoreditch, a group of tenant and community activists set up the Hackney Independent Working Class Association. We aim to involve and represent the interests of the working class majority in Shoreditch and South Hackney, as we felt the political parties were no longer able to do this, and that the developers were being given a free hand to gentrify our area.
I thought I would send some news of what the New Deal for Communities has meant for us here in Hackney. We’re about two years ahead of you, and have been through the hype and hope that the first stages of the New Deal brings.
A big contrast with Shoreditch is your magazine. Ours is controlled by the New Deal, and only allows minor differences to be expressed – it is there to give “good news” about the New Deal. This is backed up by Hackney Today, the Council’s magazine, and the Shoreditch Star which is produced by Pinnacle, the private company brought in to run council homes in the area. All three glossy magazines, produced by professionals, put out the message that the New Deal is the best thing ever. Against them we have produced the Hackney Independent. We have produced two editions so far, and have had to raise the money and deliver them ourselves to 10,000 homes in the area. It gives a voice to our group, and carries interviews with and articles by community leaders who are opposed to what the New Deal is doing.
We are not against the New Deal – who is going to be against extra money coming into the area? – but we are against the way the New Deal is run. We have made the tenant and community reps on the Board make a choice. Are they on the side of the tenants and opening up the New Deal, or are they on the side of the professionals, the gentrifiers and those who make decisions behind closed doors? So far they are split down the middle.
We keep being told that the community is in control of the New Deal. Let’s have a look at this then. We have 21 Board members, and of them seven of them are tenants. How can this be right in an area where 80% of us are council tenants? We are not even allowed to know how much the New Deal’s Director is paid. An over-worked Board is hit by decision after decision and deadline after deadline – all set by the professionals. No-one in the area supports the sell-off of Council homes, but the Board were told that they had to put this forward as an option or they would not get any funding. And the only other “option” is to bring in a PFI and sell-off some land and homes. We do not get the option of having our homes improved and keeping our Council tenancies.
Tenant leaders in neighbouring Clerkenwell, having heard about what is happening here in Shoreditch, have decided that they want nothing to do with the New Deal in their area. And because of this they have been subject to two front-page attacks in the local paper by their local Lib Dem councillor. And they told us that the community was meant to be in charge!
The NX Project states that it is trying “to build a consensus about what should happen next.” My view is that there cannot be a consensus. The interests of New Cross’s working class majority are not the same as those who can buy houses like the Guardian’s property of the week (9 December 1999), a house in Pepys Road which “is yours for a mere £310,000. No need to worry about nasty council blocks and Costcutters; you’ll be in the heart of the beautiful Telegraph Hill conservation area.” These people will want less council housing in the area, will want to turn the pubs into café-bars and your shops into organic juice bars. They will want less council housing, they won’t use local schools and they will want to sit on the New Deal Board.
The reality is that you can make gains out of the New Deal, and should make up your own minds about getting involved. If our New Deal gave up on privatising Council housing and worked for things like getting an East-West bus route through Shoreditch then we would stop criticising them.
My advice is to bear in mind that there are some people who in Jess Steele’s words (1st edition) “are thinking big about New Cross.” They are thinking about how much big money can be made from the valuable land that your homes are sitting on. They will propose schemes to replace your estates with “mixed developments” involving housing associations and private homes where tenants used to live. But they will never propose mixed developments where houses in private streets are taken over for Council housing. What they will propose is nothing short of “social cleansing” as they seek to force and price the local population out, and bring in a new population who can afford the new rents and house prices.
And don’t trust anyone who says that this cannot happen without a ballot. You don’t get a ballot if they use the Private Finance Initiative. And you don’t get a ballot if they decide to rent out every flat that becomes empty at market rents to ensure that local people cannot afford it.
To counter this I would urge you to get the following sentence inserted into New Deal plans; “there will not be one less council home in the New Deal area at the end of the New Deal project, except where tenants have taken up their Right to Buy.” If they will not agree to this, then why not? And who is in charge?
I would also encourage you to:
- Insist on New Deal funding for NXNews, with no interference on what you can print.
- Make sure that your Board reflects the community. If the majority of residents are Council tenants then the majority of the Board should be. And only tenants should be able to vote on any proposals that only effect the estates.
Anyone who can get onto the internet can look up our website at www.hackneyiwca.fsnet.co.uk You can see the New Deal’s site at www.shoreditchnewdeal.co.uk
If you would like a copy of our latest newsletter, send a stamped, addressed envelope to Box 48, 136 Kingsland High Street, London, E8 2NS.
If you want someone to come to a meeting to discuss our view on the New Deal, write to the same address. Good luck New Cross!
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!
– 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.
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.
Wenlock Barn Estate
“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?